Curley Culp, Kansas City Chiefs and Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at 75

·3 min read

The path to the Kansas City Chiefs’ first Super Bowl championship required the invention of a new defensive scheme. They rolled out the “Triple Stack” defense, they dubbed it, which would shut down the Minnesota Vikings and their top-ranked offense in Super Bowl IV.

Curley Culp will be remembered as the lineman at the center of that championship strategy. He died Saturday morning, his family announced on his social media accounts. He was 75.

Culp revealed earlier this month that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“On behalf of our family and with a broken heart, I announce the passing of my husband, Curley Culp, early this morning,” his wife, Collette Bloom Culp, wrote. “We respectfully ask for privacy.”

Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt released the following statement: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pro Football Hall of Famer Curley Culp. Curley represented the franchise with honor and respect both on and off the field. He was known as a fierce competitor and a difference maker who commanded a great deal of respect. His legacy will forever be remembered by Chiefs Kingdom. Our prayers are with his family at this time.”

Culp’s name is forever planted inside Arrowhead Stadium, alongside his No. 61. The Chiefs added him to their ring of honor in 2008. Five years later, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“It gives me joy and inspiration that will last the rest of my life,” Culp had said after his induction. “I am just overwhelmed by the struggles, joys and tears of those who made it here. I’m happy to join them in the Hall of Fame.”

Culp is one of the game’s original and all-time great nose tackles. He embraced that role in the Super Bowl IV matchup to cap the 1969 season, in which the Chiefs held the Vikings to seven points, 20 fewer than their season average.

Coach Hank Stram tasked Culp with slowing the Vikings’ vaunted rushing attack, a job he carried through by overpowering center Mick Tingelhoff. The Chiefs were 13-point underdogs in the game but used the Triple Stack to have Culp win his matchup and free linebackers to make plays.

“I was surrounded by good people; what can you say?” Culp once told The Star of his years in Kansas City. “When you’re on a team with great athletes all around, you kind of fit in. I tried to work hard at my craft and tried to improve as much as I could. I was young in my career, and it was exciting to be involved with that group.”

Chiefs defensive lineman Curley Culp
Chiefs defensive lineman Curley Culp

After implementing the scheme in Super Bowl IV, other teams followed suit in future seasons, lining up a defensive linemen directly against the center.

But Culp’s success stretches far beyond one game. In fact, that was merely the beginning.

Culp made six Pro Bowls, and in 1975, after he’d moved on to the Houston Oilers, he was named the NFL defensive player of the year. He played 14 seasons during stops with the Chiefs, Oilers and Lions, recording 68 1/2 career sacks. He had 37 of those in Kansas City, a integral figure in a dominant defense that included several Hall of Famers — Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Johnny Robinson and Emmitt Thomas.

The Broncos actually drafted Culp out of Arizona State with the intention of placing him on the offensive line before trading him to the Chiefs for a fourth-round pick. Culp also wrestled at Arizona State and won the 1967 NCAA heavyweight championship after winning two Arizona high school wrestling titles at Yuma High School.

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