All Hal Wasson needed was five seconds. Following the heartbreaking 42-38 loss to Euless Trinity in the 2013 Region I semifinals, Wasson came into the locker room and looked at his dejected running back Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
Humphrey’s fumble midway through the fourth quarter quashed Carroll’s hopes of rallying. Amid the adversity, Wasson saw through the sorrow.
“It bothered him, and I could tell he was going to come back and have a special season,” Wasson said. “I saw that look in his eye. The eyes tell you a lot about a player. I realized he was going to take it to the next level.”
Humility and diligence became the trademarks of Humphrey’s offseason. Toughness, strength and leverage defined how the junior played in 2014. As Carroll entered its Class 6A Region I Division II area playoff game with Denton Guyer Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Humphrey had rushed for 1,481 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The game was played after the early holiday press deadline; see www.dfwvarsity.com for results.
Humphrey is the symbol of what Carroll needs with a physical running game. If it’s facing a third-and-2, Humphrey can find a way to grind for three. If it is fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, Carroll will take its chances give the ball to Humphrey.
“After that Trinity game, I felt like I had let the seniors down,” Humphrey said. “I spent the whole offseason just focusing on my strength and my mental toughness. I wasn’t going to let this happen again.”
Humphrey is not your typical running back. There are not many who are as productive at 6-5, 200 lbs. Usually, running backs are standing anywhere from 5-10 to 6-1. That size gives them a lower center of gravity and a better way to handle or elude tacklers. It didn’t get any easier when Humphrey grew from his sophomore year when he was 6-3. At his height, he would be at risk to commit more fumbles as his height would present more of a target.
To compensate, Humphrey worked with the Carroll coaching staff on running drills that would help him play with better balance. So far, that’s not been a problem. In fact, Humphrey’s running between the tackles has highlighted his season.
Humphrey scored game-winning touchdowns against Coppell and Euless Trinity on one-yard plunges. Against Coppell, he drove the Cowboys linebacker into the end zone. Against Trinity, he leaped over the top of the scrum and fought his way in.
“He runs hungry, but you can tell more about a player about how well he plays without the football,” Wasson said. “He’s a good physical blocker, rout runner and is just a load to tackle in our offense. But all of those things have made him a complete back and a gifted athlete.”
Carroll’s offense will enjoy him for one more season. Humphrey will then be playing on Saturdays. Already holding offers from Colorado, Washington and Ole Miss, more will follow. Arkansas is showing interest and Baylor has made some initial contact. But he probably will not be playing running back. It will be as an athlete, meaning H back or defensive end. Time will tell.
Humphrey will not be satisfied until he helps Carroll collect a ninth state championship. But he will allow for some fulfillment because he accomplished what he set out to do. Redemption evolved through the tough 2013 finish.
“I’m happy with the way the season has gone, but I’m not content,” Humphrey said. “I have another offseason and season to keep playing at a higher level.”
What’s in a name?
Humphrey’s first name came from what you would call a settlement. Humphrey said other family members wanted to name him Michael Jordan, in honor of the Hall of Fame basketball player. But Michael was out, and Lil’ seemed to satisfy everyone.