Defensive end Claude Humphrey rarely missed a sack during his playing days with the Falcons and Eagles. But it seems near misses are part of his retirement.
For the fourth time, Humphrey did not make it past the final vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Nominations from the list of 17 finalists were announced Saturday afternoon in Tampa, Fla. Humphrey was in Nashville, Tenn. with family, but his phone did not ring.
Instead Bob Hayes, Randal McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. and Rod Woodson will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Smith and Woodson make the Hall in their first year of eligibility.
It was a lineman-heavy class for the Hall of Fame, with the Falcons Ring of Honor member going up against greats like Smith, Richard Dent and Thomas.
The 64-year-old said earlier this week he thought had a "good shot" at getting selected. His list of references is impressive with former player — Hall of Famers and near Hall of Famers — saying he's one of the best pass rushers in NFL history. But, on voting day, the selection committee could not move all 17 finalists to enshrinement.
Humphrey totaled 94.5 sacks in 10 seasons with the Falcons (122 for his career). He was named Rookie of the Year in 1968 and went to six Pro Bowls. He was also reliable, starting 127 games in Atlanta (sixth most in franchise history). But sacks were not an "official" sack until 1982, leaving the careers of many defensive linemen in debate as the game moves deeper into the modern era.
"I would like to be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Humphrey said earlier in the week. "Everyone I played against is in there and everyone that went in that I played against spoke highly of me so I feel like I have good shot at getting in there."
But it was another bittersweet day.
Humphrey was honored for his career in the past year, however.
He was selected to the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame last spring and voted into the Falcons Ring of Honor by fans in November.
The Falcons are still without a player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the Ring of Honor recognition meant just as much to Humphrey, who will have to wait at least another year for a chance at enshrinement.
"I really enjoyed playing for the Atlanta Falcons and I appreciate all the new Falcons have done," Humphrey said. "I'm still a Falcons fan. Back in those days, if the Atlanta Falcons hadn't paid me to play, I would have paid them to let me play. That's how much I really appreciate being a part of a team. That honor, that Ring of Honor thing, is fantastic. I appreciate it now probably more than I would have a lot earlier in my life."