With regard to every day, every practice, every play it seems Ben Humphreys is bombarded with choices to make.
The decisions hound him, as he realizes each step can be pivotal for a future in football. As he enters an important junior year at Mater Dei High, there are sometimes he must say no when so many others his age say yes even when the temptations are so enticing while growing up in Newport Beach.
Before the summer began, the 16-year-old made yet another tough decision. The two-sport athlete dropped basketball to make sure to go all out in football as a receiver and linebacker for the Monarchs.
“I love both sports,” Humphreys said of basketball and football, the sports he earned varsity letters in last year. “But the summer stuff was just too much, especially with passing leagues and the morning practices. Part of the reason, I just wanted to be a kid. Have some free time for once. But with football I still don’t have a lot of free time.”
These days it is difficult and challenging for an athlete to take on multiple sports. Humphreys understands this. The decision he made wasn’t just for this season, but also for the summer of 2014. He wants to be established as a key contributor for Mater Dei by then.
“I want to get bigger, faster and stronger and become a senior leader,” Humphreys says.
That desire has been a primary source of motivation throughout his childhood in Newport Beach, where he excelled in football, baseball, basketball, soccer and track and field.
It isn’t a surprise to many that Humphreys is on a path to greatness.
He comes from a strong athletic background. His mother, Wendy, was a standout volleyball player when her last name was Rush while at Newport Harbor and then at Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World high schools. She went on to become a four-time All-American at Stanford and is in the Cardinal’s Hall of Fame. While at Stanford, she met her husband, Brad, who played football.
Their first-born, daughter Kelsey, was a standout setter at Corona del Mar High and is headed to Stanford as a freshman. There’s also Ashley, 13, who competes in volleyball, and there’s also excitement for John, 11, a Newport Beach Little League All-Star who is already 5-foot-6.
Ben Humphreys, who is 6-foot-3, smiles when he talks about his “little” brother. He knows there is also great potential for John if he continues to work like his older brother.
Older brother definitely works. There is hardly an off day for Ben Humphreys.
In addition to workouts, practices, passing-league games, weightlifting and watching film with Mater Dei, Humphreys works with a speed and specialty coach, Karif Byrd. Humphreys also competes in special football camps.
All of the work has been paying off. He has packed on 15 pounds since last season and is up to 195 pounds. He also lowered his 40-yard-dash time, going from 4.6 seconds to now, 4.4.
Last year, he played some time as a slot receiver and was also inserted on defense for special packages. He wants to be ready to contribute more this season for a team that reached the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 championship game.
“I don’t want people thinking that last year was a fluke,” Humphreys said. “Coming off that loss in [the] CIF [final], we want to prove that we are for real.”
He’s also out to prove that he’s no fluke, or certainly avoid from being labeled as an injury-prone athlete.
Humphreys has had his fair share of injuries. In 2009, when he was in the seventh grade, he had to miss the Orange County Junior All-American Super Bowl because of an injury suffered during a kick-off in the previous game.
He was left with a dislocated kneecap and a stretched ligament in his knee. There was no surgery required but he had to rehab and refrain from competing for six months.
It was difficult for him to miss the Newport-Mesa Seahawks’ big game. As the quarterback, he led the Seahawks to a 12-0 record before they lost in the Super Bowl without him.
Still, Humphreys left a lasting impression during his time.
“He’s the best player that Newport-Mesa Junior All-American has ever had,” Byrd said of the program that also featured Matt Barkley, the USC star quarterback now with the Philadelphia Eagles. “The two years he played in Junior All-American, I think he was the best in the area. I had L.A. coaches telling me that they thought he was great.”
Even now, Humphreys, who dealt with pain in his wrist last year, stands out among his peers. His name is not as well-known just yet, but Byrd predicts he’ll be prominent very soon.
“I see players and evaluate talent all the time,” Byrd said. “Ben is just as good as any of those kids are … He’s going to be a star. When it’s all said and done, he’s going to be able to play for one of those teams in the Pac 12. I guarantee it. Every coach I’ve talked to they love that kid. You watch and see, Ben Humphreys, All-Trinity League. You mark my words. He will shine.”
Byrd has known Humphreys for over six years. Byrd trained Humphreys’ cousin, Dusty Campbell, who played at Newport Harbor High, where he graduated from in 2008.
Humphreys enjoys working with Byrd, and he also loves playing with his teammates.
Humphreys attended Corona del Mar Middle School, but made the tough decision back then to play at Mater Dei. He has no regrets about that decision.
“It’s like no other,” Humphreys says of the Mater Dei program. “I made the choice to come here. I didn’t think I could stay [at CdM] for six years. I wanted diversity. I get the best of both worlds. I have my new friends here and I still have my friends from when I grew up.”
There will be more choices to make for sure. He attended a football camp in Stanford early in the summer. The Cardinal will always be in the back of his mind, but he said he wants to keep his options open.
For now, Humphreys knows he’s all about Mater Dei. Yet, the decision for college football will come soon.
“It just feels so early with Ben,” Wendy Humphreys said. “Stanford is one of those schools when you wait. We don’t talk about it too much. He grew up with it. I’ll always love Stanford. It’s just part of our family. Kelsey spent time there with camps and she ended up saying, ‘I really like this for me, not because my parents went there.’ You obviously have to get in. Their program is very strong.”
Wendy Humphreys said her son had to mature quickly when dealing with the knee injury in 2009 because it also challenged him mentally.
It was a test of patience to sit out for six months. There were choices to make back then too, usually he had to hold back.
But now, Ben Humphreys has made the decision to go full throttle into his junior year at Mater Dei.