When he takes the field on Saturday for the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, Marlon Humphrey will be one of the most scrutinized players in the event.
He’s considered the top high school recruit in the state and is rated fifth in the nation by Rivals.com as one of the top two cornerbacks in the nation in this year’s recruiting class. Even if you didn’t know that, you might want to watch the middle son of former All-America running back Bobby Humphrey simply out of interest.
What might surprise you, though, is football isn’t Humphrey’s best sport. As a track and field hurdler, he is considered one of the world’s best and has a realistic shot at 2014 international events and even the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I think the Olympics is realistic,” Bobby Humphrey said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of work that has to be put into place, but his times and what he has done puts him right on pace with all the other great Olympic sprinters and hurdlers at that age, at 17 years old, in the Junior Olympics and the World Youth Games. That’s not out of reach for him to accomplish.”
Humphrey is a natural talent both on the gridiron and on the track, but excelling in statewide events didn’t compare to finishing second in the 110-meter hurdles in the 2013 World Youth Championships in Ukraine this past summer.
“My whole last track season was just a shock to me, running times I never really thought I would run in high school,” Marlon said. “I was surprising myself.”
Marlon’s mother Barbara still holds records as a sprinter at UAB, so Bobby is quick to point out that part of Marlon’s talent comes from his mother.
“He was blessed to get some speed because I wasn’t that fast,” he said. “The whole summer was really a blessing for my wife and I and our family. A lot of great things happened, not just with Marlon but some of our other kids reaching their goals. My baby boy, Marion, jumped 41 (feet) in the triple jump as a 13-year-old. And Marlon traveled all over the world competing, and it was by far his best summer. This summer, four years ago, he won five medals in the Junior Olympics and that was a great summer for him. But this past summer was just unnatural because of all the great things he accomplished.”
Marlon won the silver medal at the World Youth Championships, finishing behind Jamaica’s Jaheel Hyde. He withdrew from the 400-meter hurdles, where he likely would have won another medal, because of injury.
“I know Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix, guys and girls that have run in that meet usually end up (in the Olympics) or around there, so I know it’s a good stepping stone if that’s what I decide to do,” Marlon said.
It has created an interesting scenario for college football coaches, who understand the talented 17-year-old wants to pursue that dream as well as compete for a starting job in football.
“I don’t think there’s any secret or anyone is blind to the fact that he has the potential to be a very, very good corner as well as a possible Olympic-type hurdler,” Bobby said. “I don’t think that’s any secret to the coaches that are recruiting him. They realize he loves track and he’s competed in track and field since he was in the fourth grade. The problem is, you have to be very dedicated to being a master in both sports, and I think Marlon has that quality.”
“I know it can be done,” Marlon said of juggling both sports. “It takes a special athlete. We’ll just have to see.”
Humphrey remains uncommitted in football, listing Florida State, Clemson, Mississippi State and UCLA as places he may make official visits as well as Alabama, where his father was an All-America running back in the mid-1980s.
And while many would have thought Marlon would have already committed to the Crimson Tide, Bobby had a word of advice to his son.
“I always tell him don’t make a commitment until you’re sure that’s where you want to go because I wouldn’t be for him making a commitment one place and then decommitting and going another place,” he said. “Once you’ve seen and compared all the schools and you like one over the other, then you make a commitment and you stay with it. I think that’s why his decision is taking a little more of a long process because he does have some schools on his list that he likes. That’s a 17-year-old kid. They have a right to pick and choose where they want to go.”
Humphrey entertained Alabama coach Nick Saban at his house last week and noted that “my sisters really liked him and took pictures with him,” but has tried to downplay any timetable for making a decision, saying it will probably come in early February on national signing day.
“I’ve got an idea, but I don’t want to say anything until I know for sure,” he said. “Just a place where I can have fun and enjoy my years of playing ball.”
Humphrey says he has actually enjoyed the recruiting process.
“It’s pretty cool talking to these coaches and seeing their thought process, some of the tips they’ve given me throughout the season to help me get better,” he said. “It’s been really interesting. It’s really not as stressful as some people seem to think. It’s just a call here and there. I usually enjoy talking to those guys, so it really doesn’t bother me at all.”
And while there will be a lot of eyes focused on Humphrey this weekend, the former Hoover High standout said he doesn’t have any individual goals for the game.
“I just want to do what I’ve done all my life, just go out and make some plays,” he said.