(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
It had been a long time coming for John Humphrey.
When Arizona State’s redshirt sophomore wide receiver hauled in his 60-yard touchdown pass last Thursday against New Mexico State, it completed his three year journey to the field with the signature moment he had waited on for too long.
“It was a blessing to go out there, to perform the way that I did,” Humphrey said.
This season will be Humphrey’s first seeing playing time at the college football level. He got off to a nearly perfect start, catching seven balls for a 135 yards in addition to his long score.
For someone as gifted as the speedy wide out, waiting more than two seasons to get on the field doesn’t usually happen.
But, Humphrey started his collegiate career at Oklahoma. Too raw to see playing time for his true freshman season, the League City, Texas native took a redshirt, and went to work. His efforts with the Sooners backups that year earned him Scout Team Player of the Year honors.
But by the end of spring ball the next season, he still wasn’t getting his opportunity with the Big 12 powers. So, he started looking for a new home. ASU was a perfect fit.
“The coaches taking more time to develop myself, outside of football,” Humphrey said of why the move to Tempe has helped his career. “(Wide receivers) coach (Rob) Likens, he’s a great coach. I’ve never had a coach like him that takes time out of his day to text us, ‘watch this’ or ‘make sure you do this when you run this route.’”
After sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules last fall, Humphrey solidified his spot at the top of the depth chart during this year’s spring game. Humphrey hauled in three touchdowns that day, two of which came on catches of over 35 yards.
But speed and talent alone didn’t help Humphrey settle in Tempe during his transfer year. At a new school, and starting over with a new team, Humphrey bonded with a new teammate stuck in a nearly identical situation: Ryan Newsome.
Like Humphrey, Newsome was fighting for playing time at a Big 12 school, Texas, in 2015. Though Newsome saw some actual game action in his first season in Austin, he too was disenchanted by the end of the year and started looking for a new school to play for. One of his first calls was from Humphrey, who has just declared to become a Sun Devil. Their relationship grew from there.
“We were roommates (at ASU),” Newsome said. “I had known John from afar in Texas just through the camp circuit and everything, and from track (and field). He was one of the first guys who hit me up, and now I’m here.”
Just like their paths off the field, Humphrey’s and Newsome’s skills on the it mirror one another. Both are smaller, fast threats that want to stretch a defense. Though their friendship helped each get through a year without football, they now are both competing for the same role on this season’s team, a friendly battle that will push them to improve.
“We got two pretty fast guys on the same team,” Newsome said. “I’m interested to see how it all clashes together.”
Newsome compared their speeds to their track and field backgrounds.
“John is more of a 200-meter guy, that’s his race. But when it’s the 100 meter, I got it,” he joked.
Quickness defines Newsome and Humphrey when they are between the white lines on Saturdays. But for the two of them, reaching a college playing field has been a slow marathon. Newsome is still waiting to make his ASU debut, after he missed out on the last week’s season opener with an injury.
Humphrey though, took his first chance by storm.
“I was pretty nervous, not going to lie,” he said. “But as I started to play the game I cooled down so that was good.”
The game was a long time coming, but he handled it like a veteran. It might technically be his rookie season of playing, but Humphrey has been through enough to know just what it will take to be successful.
“I just brought a deep threat to this team,” he said. “I’m ready to use it throughout the season.”