ARLINGTON, Texas — Creed Humphrey wasn’t Oklahoma’s starting center yet. He was still a freshman at Shawnee High School.
That was when John Jacobs, a highly touted quarterback from the state of Texas, moved into town and changed the way Humphrey thought about a sport he’d been playing since grade school.
“He was really strong,” Humphrey said. “He kind of showed me the type of work ethic to be what you really wanted to be. And from there it grew. John Jacobs was the guy. He was a sophomore squatting like 500 pounds. It was like, ‘Geez, how’s he doing that?’
“It was amazing watching him do that.”
Now, Humphrey’s the one amazing people.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound redshirt sophomore’s strength has been a talking point with teammates for the past two years, and is just one reason Lincoln Riley has argued he might be the Sooners’ most talented player.
After earning the starting role as a redshirt freshman last fall, Humphrey was limited this spring due to a hand injury, but says his last bench-press max was between 460 and 475 pounds. His last squat max was a little more than 700 pounds.
He and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore are considered the two strongest on the team, with close competition from Marquise Overton, Brey Walker and Dillon Faamatau.
Several of Humphrey’s blocks last fall drew attention. Against Baylor, he ran into the secondary and flattened safety Chris Miller on a tunnel-screen pass that helped spring a Marquise Brown touchdown.
On the night OU clinched a spot in the Big 12 title game, he ran over West Virginia star linebacker David Long on a Kennedy Brooks touchdown run in Morgantown.
“He has extreme talent,” Riley said. “He’s a pretty rare talent for the position with combined competitiveness, toughness and a really good mind for the game. There are not many qualities for a center that he doesn’t have. Now, with all that being said, before we anoint him the greatest football player ever, he’s still got a lot that he can get better at.”
Humphrey’s presence brings some sense of security to an offensive line that lost four starters to the NFL after last season.
Riley hinted at the new starters up front after OU’s Red-White scrimmage, but added at Big 12 media days that, besides Humphrey’s position, all jobs are wide-open heading into fall camp, especially with graduate-transfer R.J. Proctor adding his name to the fold.
“There's been a lot of development time for those guys. This is typically when they make their biggest jump. And one person emerging at one position could change others, just like Cody Ford emerging last year at right tackle,” Riley said. “Those guys that we mentioned had good springs. There's no doubt if we played that day, that's probably who we would've started. But I've always used the comparison that if you'd asked me my first spring if Orlando Brown was going to be a starter, I'd ask what the hell you were thinking. He was not very good that first spring, and three days in the fall camp it was very obvious to anybody there that he was easily the best tackle that we had.”
Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will have decisions to make in that regard. But Humphrey won’t be one of them.
His endearing personality has helped him win teammates from a leadership standpoint, Riley said.
Being physically dominant is a key plus.
“I think the mental aspect of that is huge. To believe you can do that,” Humphrey said. “Say you go to a weight bar and are like, eh, I don’t think I can do this. Chances are you won’t do it, and you won’t do it on the football field either. If you think you can’t block a guy, chances are you won’t.”