John Humphrey floated back from his cornerback spot. Anaheim Western tried to draw him close to the line of scrimmage with its outside receiver running a five-yard hitch.
The Pioneers wanted to open a window for a deeper pass beyond Humphrey to an inside receiver running a corner route.
But Humphrey maintained his Cover-3 duties.
He saw the outside receiver’s pass pattern while reading the inside target as well. When the inside receiver planted his foot and turned to the outside, he became Humphrey’s responsibility. The 6-foot-2, 176-pound defensive back was waiting when the quarterback flung a pass toward the inside receiver.
“The quarterback threw it. I got up, got it,” Humphrey said. “It was almost a one-hand catch, though, cause I got it in my left hand and kind of brought it in.”
Humphrey’s interception was part of a Pasadena Muir defensive effort that completely locked down a Western offense that piled up nearly 500 yards per game last season. The Division 11 Southern Section champion Pioneers averaged 45.7 points in 2018, but Muir held Western to 209 yards of offense and zero offensive points in the season opener.
Humphrey played an important role as he was tasked with covering Arizona State wide receiver commit Caine Savage for much of the night. Savage showed his explosiveness, running the opening kickoff back for a touchdown.
But Humphrey gave up only one big play to Savage, keeping the speedy wideout in front of him the rest of the night.
“My mind-set is I’m not sleeping on nobody, regardless of who they are,” Humphrey said of the one-on-one matchup against another top prospect. “I’m trying to go my hardest on every play, so I came in thinking I’m the bigger dog. I came in thinking I could dominate him. He didn’t really score besides that special teams play.”
Savage finished with 10 catches for 125 yards, but he will have to seek redemption for the 26-6 loss at the collegiate level. The two could face off in the Pac-12 South over the next four years, as Humphrey committed to UCLA a month ago.
Humphrey chose the Bruins in part because of the “once-in-a-lifetime experience” he’ll have of playing games in his backyard at the Rose Bowl. He’s following in the footsteps of two other Pasadena cornerbacks — Darnay Holmes and Elijah Gates.
“It’s just [my] hometown. There’s no place like home,” Humphrey said. “Looking up to Darnay, Elijah Gates. They inspire me. Seeing how good they are, I think UCLA could develop me like that too. [UCLA defensive backs coach] Paul Rhoads is a great coach. He can really develop me, make me the best I could be.”
Humphrey received a scholarship offer in July and visited UCLA multiple times during the offseason, including participating in the Bruins’ invite-only summer camp in June and recruit barbecue in July. The more he was around the campus, the more it started to feel like home, so he decided to commit.
When Humphrey visited the Bruins’ practices, he saw something different.
“They don’t practice like other schools. They practice in a way that develops them without injuring themselves,” he said, adding that he’ll be watching the Bruins this season. “I’m looking to see how they develop, what Chip Kelly’s doing to develop the program, see where they’re heading.”
Humphrey wants to check out a couple of other schools during the season so he can compare what other programs have to offer before he signs in December and enrolls in January.
He is planning on taking an official visit to California, and a trip to Oklahoma is likely, though Humphrey said he’s “leaning more towards California schools.”