'Block of granite' polished in football, wrestling

2011-08-06T00:00:00Z 2011-08-06T21:32:09Z 'Block of granite' polished in football, wrestling Arizona Daily Star
August 06, 2011 12:00 am

In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

Curley Culp

Achievement

At the 1967 NCAA wrestling championships in Kent, Ohio, Arizona State junior Curley Culp won three matches by pins and another 15-5. It took him a mere 51 seconds to win his title match.

Culp was a two-time state wrestling champion at Yuma High School and a four-time WAC wrestling champion and was selected to the 1968 USA Olympic wrestling team, although he did not participate in the Mexico City Olympics.

That's because Culp's best sport was football. By 1968, he had begun a pro football career that would see him in six Pro Bowls and on the all-time teams of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Oilers.

The son of a Yuma farmer, Culp was a giant of a man at 6 feet 1 inch and 275 pounds, but his size, strength and athleticism didn't define him. As a Yuma schoolboy, he was president of his Future Farmers of America chapter. As a senior defensive lineman at ASU in 1967, Culp was voted "Boy With The Best Smile."

While a Sun Devil, he never lost to rival Arizona, twice making the All-WAC team and becoming the second-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 1968.

"Curley Culp was a block of granite," former Houston Oiler Greg Sampson told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in 2010. "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."

Culp was so strong that he broke the helmets of three teammates during ASU practices. His legacy grew so much that the top high school senior lineman in the greater Phoenix area is now presented with the Curley Culp Award each fall.

After his 14-year NFL career, Culp moved to Austin, Texas.

Hometown, age

Yuma, 65

By the numbers

42

His pins while at ASU, still second in school history.

Greg Hansen

On StarNet: See the archive of Sports Centennial articles at: azstarnet.com/ sportscentennial

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