O'Hara: Bubba Baker recalls the impression Curley Culp made on him

Posted Aug 3, 2013

Culp, who earned rightful recognition for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, went out on a high note with his short tenure in Detroit

Curley Culp’s brief stay with the Lions was the swan song in a Hall of Fame career, but he went out on a high note by the impression he made in his abbreviated stay in Detroit.
Curley CulpCurley Culp at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket dinner (Photo: AP Images)

Culp, 67, earned rightful recognition for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame by distinguishing himself as one of  the first athletic nose tackles in his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Oilers.

Culp played six full seasons and parts of a seventh with both teams in a 13-year period from 1968-80.

Culp finished his career with the Lions in 1980-81. He played three games, starting two, at the end of the 1980 season and played two games in 1981 before retiring.

The Class of 2013 enshrinement ceremony was Saturday evening at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Bubba Baker, a pass-rushing end for the Lions from 1978-82, recalled the impression Culp made on him. Culp roomed with Baker when he came to the Lions to help with a playoff push at the end of the 1980 season that barely fell short.

The Lions and Vikings tied for first place in the old NFC Central in 1980 with 9-7 records, but the Vikings got the division title and playoff berth under the tiebreaker formula.

Culp was listed as 6-1 and 265 pounds but was generally thought to be shorter and heavier. There was no question about the level of his strength and agility.

“He was the consummate pro,” Baker said. “He just opened things up for me. He actually was a father figure to me. He absolutely, unequivocally deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”

Culp was still a physical force on the field at the end of his career, Baker said.

“We didn’t have anybody on our entire line who could block him in practice,” Baker said. “The fullback could not get to the hole to block the linebacker.”

The Lions claimed Culp when the Oilers put him on waivers.

Culp showed the Lions his strength before ever stepping on the field. He was put through the standard weight-lifting test that all players take. Culp asked what the record was for most repetitions.

When he tied the mark, he held the bar with one hand, wiped the perspiration from his brow with the other, then used both hands to do one more rep and break the mark.

“From my standpoint, he was two times stronger than me, without making an effort,” Baker said. “He laughed at it.”