At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Corona del Mar High football junior John Humphreys is a big target for the Sea Kings.
Humphreys has been offered by 10 college football programs, and they are familiar ones. More than half of the Pac-12 Conference – Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, USC and Utah – has offered him, while Duke, San Diego State and Yale have done the same.
A natural question is if Humphreys has had an offer that stood out.
“Just the schools that are affiliated with my family,” he said. “My parents [Brad and Wendy] went to Stanford, so that [offer] felt really good because of my background. Duke was my first one, and that one was really cool, because of my brother [Ben] being there [as a starting linebacker on the football team]. When I got USC, my sister [Ashley] just got in [for volleyball], so they were just so happy.
“The siblings are pulling their strings,” added John Humphreys, whose older sister Kelsey also played volleyball at Stanford, with a laugh. “Every time I got offered by their school, they were like, ‘OK, you’ve got to come with me.’”
Family is important to the youngest of the four siblings. So is winning. The two come together at the holidays, when John Humphreys said family members are out for blood playing Charades or “spikeball.”
“We’re just always competing, and I hate losing,” he said. “I’m always trying to win, which I think helps me in life and sports.”
Corona del Mar (1-1), ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 4, won its first game of the season last week. CdM bounced back from a season-opening 49-7 loss at JSerra to top Palos Verdes 28-6 at Newport Harbor High.
Humphreys was not at full strength. He said his bursa in his right knee burst during the first quarter against JSerra, and he suffered a slight sprain of his posterior cruciate ligament.
CdM coach Dan O’Shea only played Humphreys at receiver against Palos Verdes, not also his normal position of safety on defense. Nobody could tell the difference on offense. Humphreys had his fingerprints all over the win, with a school single-game record 13 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
“During the game, it was fine, because I had adrenaline and stuff,” he said. “It hurt when I fell a little bit, but other than that, I was fine because of adrenaline. After the game, it was pretty painful … it was just a matter of getting the swelling out.”
Humphreys said he felt better earlier this week. He could play on both sides of the ball Friday night, when the Sea Kings host El Toro (2-0) in another nonleague game. They’re taking the injury day by day and week by week, O’Shea said.
Despite the injury, Humphreys showed his big-play ability against Palos Verdes, scoring on touchdown receptions of 60 yards (a screen to the right), 40 yards (streaking down the left sideline) and nine yards (a fade to the back-right corner of the end zone).
The latter two passes, especially, were well-thrown by junior quarterback Ethan Garbers. CdM offensive coordinator Kevin Hettig said the first touchdown was set up by a good block downfield by sophomore right guard Hunter Schimmelpfennig. It all added up to 13 catches by Humphreys, surpassing the previous school record of 11 shared by Steven Hillgren (2006) and Peter Bush (2015).
Humphreys’ leadership is important. Besides him, junior tight end Mark Redman and senior center Sean Owens, the CdM offense is young.
Owens was the only senior starter on offense against Palos Verdes. Humphreys played like one. Little surprise, considering he has been making plays for CdM since he helped the Sea Kings reach the Division 4 title game two years ago as a freshman.
At that point, late in 2016, O’Shea simply called Humphreys “a freak” who already played like he was a junior or senior. Also of note, he averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore for the Sea Kings basketball team last winter, taking home first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.
Humphreys said he grew up loving basketball nearly as much as football, adding that he plans to play hoops again this winter. For now, expect plenty more big performances on the gridiron.
“It felt like a regular night for John,” Hettig said of the record-breaking 13-catch effort. “We weren’t trying to light him up, push the ball to him too much. It wasn’t forced. The best skill player at [Palos Verdes] was the safety [Julian Alessi] that was over John. Our whole game plan was that if we could get John isolated with the cornerback and get the safety off of him, we were going to be in business.
“Once we were able to kind of pry Alessi off of John and make him worry more about Mark vertically, that really freed John up in the second half. He just had a huge night.”
As important to Humphreys as his success, Redman had five catches for 56 yards, while junior receivers Bradley Schlom and Simon Hall also combined for five catches.
“We’re a super-unselfish group, which makes it fun,” Humphreys said. “If Bradley or Simon or Mark would have had 14 catches for 200 yards, I’d be just as happy for them as they were for me. That’s one reason why I came to CdM and why I love being here. The team atmosphere is really something special.”
Humphreys feels it at home, and he feels it on the football field. That is something that O’Shea has tried to build in his time as a head coach, and he has a great leader in Humphreys who embodies that quality.
“His competiveness is off the charts,” O’Shea said. “He’ll go down as one of the best leaders we’ll ever have at this school. Nothing intimidates him … It’s amazing what he’s accomplished after two games of his junior year, and I don’t even think he’s scratched the surface of the player he wants to be. He’ll continue to grow as a player and as a leader in this program.”
Born: Nov. 8, 2001
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 6 feet 5
Weight: 205 pounds
Coach: Dan O’Shea
Favorite food: Chipotle
Favorite movie: “Remember the Titans”
Favorite athletic moment: Helping CdM beat Eastvale Roosevelt 42-35 last year in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.