- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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You knew Claude Humphrey’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech was going to be one for the ages simply based on the former Atlanta Falcons defensive end’s opening line.
"They told me that I only had 10 minutes up here," he started, "but let me start off by telling you, I’ve waited almost 30 years to get to this podium. So, don’t rush me, guys. I'm going to be here for a minute."
Every second of Humphrey’s address was enjoyable, as he recollected about personal tragedy, made mention of overcoming racial barriers and reflected on his storied football career. The Memphis, Tennessee, native even thanked the sports writers for finally voting him into the Hall of Fame after so many unsuccessful attempts.
"I want to pay special recognition to the sports writers, the people who voted for me," Humphrey said. "I know you had a hard time because most of you guys weren’t even alive when I played. So I know you worked hard to get me in, and I do appreciate it."
Humphrey, 70, was presented by his oldest daughter, Cheyenne Humphrey-Robinson. He drew the biggest reaction, however, when he called out the youngest of his three daughters.
"She came purely by accident," Humphrey said with a laugh. " She’s been the love of our lives. My wife adored my baby daughter."
The tone changed when Humphrey talked about his late wife, Sandra.
"I’ve had Sandra in my life until a year ago, when she subsided to ovarian cancer," Humphrey said. "She worked with me, man. I’ll tell you: All those years that I was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- and I think it was four times -- every year, my wife worked diligently. She called everybody and talked to people and do everything she could to get [me] in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And it never worked. And after every campaign, she and I would sit down and cry about it and hug each other. My wife was a special person."
Humphrey, who recognized a few doctors, noted how he avoided ending his career after tearing ligaments and cartilage in his knee, moving on from Atlanta to Philadelphia and getting to the Super Bowl and finishing his career. He retired briefly before being traded to the Eagles.
As for the Falcons, he managed to interconnect the past and present by acknowledging former Falcons coaches Marion Campbell and Jerry Glanville, then acknowledging team owner Arthur Blank and current general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Humphrey made it to the Hall of Fame by recording 122 career sacks before sacks officially became a statistic. On Saturday, he was able to corral the moment.