Creed Humphrey’s dream of playing in the NFL started when he was 6.
The Shawnee, Oklahoma, native recalls that even though he hadn’t spent too much time on a football field at that age, he knew it was something he wanted to pursue for the rest of his life.
And that’s exactly what he did. From there, Humphrey dominated at every level of the game. Whether it was against youth, junior high, high school or collegiate competition, he always stood out as one of the best players on the field — making his dream of playing in the NFL look more and more like a reality each day.
However, though his NFL dream is one of his oldest, it wasn’t his first.
His first dream was to become a Sooner.
Growing up less than 50 miles away from Norman, trips to watch OU play at Owen Field came often for Humphrey. This instilled him as a die-hard fan of the team long before Oklahoma offered him in April 2016. Though Humphrey originally committed to Texas A&M a few months later, he eventually decommitted and signed with Oklahoma due to his lifelong dream of playing there.
The two dreams coincided after Oklahoma’s 2019 season came to an end with a 63-28 loss to LSU in the College Football Playoff. Now eligible for the NFL Draft and viewed as a first round selection by draft experts, Humphrey was faced with the choice of achieving his professional dream or staying at OU for another year.
“I was excited for whatever he decided to do,” Humphrey’s mother, Melissa, said. “It was his decision (and) we gave him space to make it. He knew we would support him in any decision he made.”
Following days of family discussions, self thought and prayer, the now-redshirt junior decided he wasn’t content with having his OU career end in disappointing fashion.
“After the game (against) LSU, I took a couple days (to meet with) my family and really talk through everything,” Humphrey said. “I felt like at that point there wasn’t a wrong decision for me to make as far as leaving or staying — but at the end of the day, I felt I had more to accomplish here.
“For every season, our goal is to be able to win a national championship. No, it hasn't happened yet, but I feel like we're on the right track. I feel like we’re doing the right things as a program and as a team. I think we have really good leaders on this team this year. I feel like we're ready to make that next step.”
Humphrey’s return doesn’t just boost the Sooners’ odds at a fourth consecutive playoff appearance, it gives him another season to cement himself as one of Oklahoma’s best centers of all time.
So far in his Sooner career, Humphrey was an imperative part of the offensive line that took home the 2018 Joe Moore Award — annually given to college football’s best offensive line — and was a one of three finalists for the 2019 Rimington Trophy, which recognizes the country’s best center.
Various injuries plagued the Sooners’ offensive line early on last season, causing five different starting lineups during OU’s first seven games. Still, Humphrey’s efforts of 93 knockdowns and zero sacks allowed in 799 plays led the team to semifinalist status for the 2019 Joe Moore Award.
For the upcoming season, he was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 team and to the Outland Trophy Watch List, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football.
“My dream has always been to be one of the best players to play at OU,” Humphrey said. “Obviously, (becoming one of OU’s best players ever) crosses my mind just because I have so much love for this program and I want to be able to give it my all.”
Former Oklahoma center Jon Cooper, now the tight ends coach at Arkansas, would arguably make the list of the Sooners’ best linemen in program history. The former Sooner won the Big 12’s Offensive Lineman of the Year award in 2008, had a 42-12 record as a starter and helped guide OU to the 2009 BCS National Championship game against Florida.
Cooper believes there’s something that separates Humphrey from the rest of OU’s former centers.
“(Humphrey’s) got some tools I don't think (some of OU’s best centers) had,” Cooper said. “He's been under the tutelage of (coach Bill Bedenbaugh) for years. I think he might be the only one that’s had one O-line coach (during his OU career). That helps him. He's got the physical tools that none of us had, whether it's size, strength, (or) athleticism.
“All those sorts of things have contributed to his success, and I think he'll have a long (NFL) career.”
Humphrey’s playing career has also drawn the attention of another former Sooner center in Vince Carter, who suited up for Oklahoma from 2001–04. Though Carter puts Cooper as his all-time favorite Sooner, he puts Humphrey as one of the best Oklahoma’s ever had.
“(Cooper) was a phenomenal athlete at the center position,” Carter said. “But I think what separates Creed from the rest of us is the strength that he plays with. Guys don’t overpower him. He might find himself in a compromising position … he could still overcome and win that play based on his strength. That’s impressive to watch.
“He’s consistently and constantly trying to help the guys that are around him. That’s the point of what you do as a center. The best ones, they have more to present because they’re more aware of what’s going on. The attention to detail that I’ve seen from him and the fact that he’s rarely ever caught out of position (or) caught in a bad position, and you see the guys that are playing next to him … they’re rarely ever caught in a bad position. I think that’s one of the things that not only makes him great but makes those guys around him better.”
Cooper sees Humphrey’s extra year with the Sooners paying off for both OU and whichever NFL team picks him up.
“It's always good to have (an experienced) center, and especially a player of Humphrey’s caliber, come back,” he said. “Playing with a guy who’s as good as he is, and is as smart as he is, (will) help their offense more than anything. And I think he can earn value coming back because he's still got a lot of things he can get better at.”
This offseason, Humphrey has dedicated himself to finding those areas of improvement. He’s done so by attending the Lineman Performance Association, a camp for offensive linemen that’s run by former Tulsa guard Clint Anderson.
Anderson, who’s worked with the likes of current Philadelphia Eagle and former Sooner tackle Lane Johnson, is more than impressed in what he’s seen in Humphrey.
“He's really bought into the details,” said Anderson, who was a two-year starter for the Golden Hurricanes from 2009 to 2010 before starting the LPA in 2017. “A lot of these guys are God-given athletes. You look at (Humphrey), you look at Lane (Johnson), they’re just freaks athletically.
“They can do anything athletically that you want them to do, it’s just about dialing them in to why the little details will help them more than anything. He's really buying into that aspect of it. He’s asking a bunch of questions, working on his mobility, core work, breathing techniques — he’s buying into the details for sure.”
Anderson believes one of Humphrey's biggest contributions to his team will be his leadership. So far, he’s right. Even with COVID-19 threatening the Sooners’ season, Humphrey hasn’t shied away from making sure both new and old guys are as determined as he is.
“I reach out to (our guys) all the time to make sure they're doing what they need to be doing to be prepared for the season,” Humphrey said. “In this time of uncertainty, we don't really know exactly when that's going to be, but we have to be prepared for whenever we do have (our season).”
Above all, Anderson sees nothing but the utmost potential in Humphrey. But it’s not just because of his physical skillset. It’s also because of how Humphrey approaches the game mentally.
“You can't teach a guy to have that switch mentality of ‘blood’s in the water, it's time to play,’” Anderson said. “You either got it or you don’t. Creed’s got it. … He’s really diving into the mental aspect of the game. He’s constantly clocked in. … He's bought into the fact that he's still able to get better and work on his craft. And for him to realize that, it’s kind of scary because the sky’s the limit.
“There’s not a lot of centers that come out like Creed. Genetically, it's hard to find a guy that's that big and strong, and that can move that quick and fast as well — it’s a perfect storm for a center.”