Lil' Big Man on Campus
Oct 12, 2015 02:42PM ● Published by Dia
To his teammates and most people around Southlake, Lil’ Jordan Humphrey is known simply as L.J. But to the general population, Humphrey is known as one of the best running backs in the state with a unique name that doesn’t quite fit him — Humphrey stands at six-foot-five, 200 pounds.
“I just try to embrace my name,” Humphrey says. “It’s crazy because of how big I got. If I were actually little, people would probably be okay with it. People look at me crazy, especially when I have to show my ID or birth certificate. I’m like ‘that’s for real my name.’”
So why did his parents add the Lil’ in front of Jordan?
“My brother was the one that wanted to name me that,” Humphrey says. “That’s all my mom really told me. She just went with it. I guess he just really liked Michael Jordan.”
At one point in his life, Humphrey thought he was going to follow in the footsteps of his namesake and arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time. Humphrey started playing both sports when he was just four years old but admits basketball was his first love.
In middle school, Humphrey was far from the star running back he is today. In fact, he spent most of his junior high career at linebacker. Humphrey believed basketball was going to be his ticket.
“There was a stretch where I wasn’t doing too well in football,” Humphrey says. “I was slow in middle school. I thought basketball was going to be my sport. I hit a big growth spurt right after eighth grade. I went from five- foot-eight to six-foot-one.”
Humphrey kept growing. He hit six-foot-three as a sophomore and eventually six-foot-five last year. Along with the height came welcomed speed and strength and more minutes at running back.
His body and work ethic also allowed him to excel on the hardwood. Last season, Humphrey averaged 11.4 points and 4.6 points per game for head coach Eric McDade. He also spent the summer on the AAU circuit, playing for Texas Select — a program that has produced NBA players like Myles Turner and Cory Jefferson. He even notched an offer to play basketball from The University of South Dakota.
“Lil’ Jordan is a special kid,” says Southlake Carroll head basketball coach Eric McDade. “He’s a true team player and a leader for our team. He’s just a terrific athlete.”
Basketball, however, has become Humphrey’s secondary sport. At this time last year, he was slated to split carries with fellow junior Grant McFarlin after rushing for 674 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore.
Instead, Humphrey had a breakout season that saw him win the starting job and rush for 1,828 yards and 29 touchdowns en route to leading Southlake Carroll to the state quarterfinals.
“I was working really hard to win the starting spot last offseason,” Humphrey says. “When I got it, I felt like I showed what I needed to show to keep it. So this year, I’m trying to improve on that aspect and get even better.”
McFarlin, who made the move to linebacker, says he knew his teammate was capable of a big season and supported him despite losing out on the starting job.
“L.J. is a great running back,” McFarlin says. “He just went off. What he did for our team last year was incredible. I was very supportive of him. All the recognition he gets has been well deserved.”
Southlake Carroll is traditionally known for its high-powered, pass-heavy offense. But with a special talent like Humphrey in the backfield, the Dragons might run the football a little more than usual.
Humphrey is a big back that can handle a heavy workload. Along with putting up monster stats on the ground, Humphrey caught 24 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns last season and also delivered some key blocks.
And speaking of blocking, Southlake Carroll returns most of its offensive line. The Dragons won’t abandon their offensive philosophy, but head coach Hal Wasson says he plans to find more ways to get Humphrey involved.
“Lil’ Jordan is a big-time playmaker for us,” Wasson says. “He’s a big part of our offense, and we’re going to find ways to get him the ball. He’s hungry. He’s very athletic and unselfish. He’s one of the best blockers on our team. His teammates see that and really respect him. He’s grown into a leader for us. He challenges his teammates to be better. He’s special.”
Humphrey knows it’s his time to carry the torch, but he’s far from worried about the extra responsibility.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Humphrey says. “I know even if the ball is not in my hands, other guys are going to make plays. I trust my teammates. When the ball is in my hands, I know the offensive line is going to open up some holes. The guys up front are going to do some work.”
Humphrey says a big key to success this season would be humility. Despite all the newfound attention, he tries to stay away from the hype and doesn’t get too caught up in the recruiting process.
One of the most intriguing football prospects in the 2016 class, Humphrey holds offers from California, Ole Miss, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and a number of other major programs as an athlete. Texas, with their new head coach Shaka Smart, has even talked to him about playing both football and basketball at the next level.
Humphrey doesn’t know where he wants to play at the next level or even what position for that matter. Some schools believe he’s too tall to play running back in college and like him as a wide receiver or tight end. But Humphrey isn’t too concerned with that right now.
“The recruiting process is great but stressful at the same time,” Humphrey says. “I just try not to worry about it too much and let things work themselves out. Just do you, basically. My mom always says patience is a virtue, so I just try to take things slow.”
Balancing recruiting, football, basketball and schoolwork can be difficult at times but staying grounded only helps.
“It’s extremely hard,” Humphrey says. “Sometimes, you can’t even get sleep. But you just do it. You know you have to do it to get it done. But everything is going great with both sports and in the classroom. If football doesn’t work out, I want to be a sports commentator like Charles Barkley or go into real estate.”
Whether it’s selling a multimillion-dollar home, sitting on the set of Sports Center or playing major college basketball and football, Humphrey is on the path towards a bright future.
But for now, he’s still just L.J. And his focus is only on the present.
“My personal goal for this season is to be the best player in the state,” Humphrey says. “That’s what I’m striving for. But my most important goal is to help this team win a state championship. That’s what it’s all about.”