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NFL Oilers Touchdown Run

When Curley Culp signed a future contract with the Southern California Sun of the World Football League Southern California Sun, the Chiefs traded him to the Houston Oilers during the 1974 season. With outside linebacker Robert Brazile [#52] coming in as the # 1draft choice in 1975, and Elvin Bethea [#65], a formidable defensive end, aligned with Curley’s talents, the floundering Oilers transformed from a 1-13 in 1973 to finish 10-4 in 1975. That year, Curley had 11.5 sacks and the Newspaper Enterprise Association awarded him the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Trophy.

~ Portrait by Dick Lubey ~
  Curley Culp and Elvin Bethea

It was with the Houston Oilers that Curley began to gain lasting acclaim for his consistent high level of play as a nose tackle in the 3-4 defense.  

Culp, Bethea, Brazile and inside linebacker Gregg Bingham [#54] were cornerstones in the front seven that helped the Oilers have one of the NFL's best defenses in the late seventies.

Curley continued as one of the leaders of the Oilers defense, culminating in back-to-back spots in the AFC championship games in 1978 and 1979. 

Commenting on his recollections of that period of his career, Curley reminisced “ Houston, we had a great bunch of players and we exceeded all expectations.  We had great chemistry and played well as a team.”

When asked about Head Coach Bum Phillips’ coaching style, Curley recalls, “Bum was a player's coach.  He would support our development as athletes by holding team building events that bonded us as a unit.  Often we had pizza parties in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.  That Luv Ya Blue period was an unbelievable time both for the fans and for the players. The rally in the Houston Astrodome after our defeat in Pittsburgh with 60,000 fans was fantastic and incredible! It was a time in my playing career that
I will never forget.”

On the football field and wrestling mat, Culp was an impressive physical specimen. Houston Oilers’ Greg Sampson described his former teammate this way in a 2010 interview: "Curley Culp was a block of granite. He held the field in the middle all across the center. He was a nose guard that they build defenses around. Very agile. Very strong."

Wade Phillips, Curley’s defensive line coach at the Oilers and son of Bum Phillips, Phillips called Curley an "intimidator" who would "put his forearm right in the middle" of opposing centers' helmets, and coach Wade Phillips laughed as he said Culp would be fined a lot if he played in the NFL today.

"Culp was the NCAA heavyweight wrestling champ as a senior at Arizona State; he had that kind of ability, movement, and power," Phillips remembered. “You couldn’t block him one-on-one. Culp could rush the passer, which even these days, you have some nose guards that are good players but they're not pass-rushers.  Curley was a really good pass-rusher, too. He had great lateral movement, quickness, and strength.”

Following the 1980 season, after 13 years in professional football and six years with the Houston Oilers, Curley was traded to the Detroit Lions where he played for one season.  It was with the Lions that he retired at age 35 after a career-ending injury to his achilles tendon.

Download Curley's Professional Honors


Little known fact: Suffering from asthma all of his life, Curley is allergic to freshly cut grass and pollen.