Enjoy the Process
Freshman London Humphreys’ journey to playing football at Vanderbilt started down the road in Nashville
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Freshman wide receiver London Humphreys didn’t start playing football until his freshman year of high school. After his first season at Christ Presbyterian Academy, he didn’t choose to play again until his junior year. Flash forward four years since that first season and Humphreys was named SEC Freshman of the Week after his performance at Wake Forest where he made four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Growing up, Humphreys—whose parents were collegiate All-Americans in track and field—played several sports including basketball, baseball, soccer and track, but never football. After some convincing from his friends, he finally decided to go out for his high school’s football team. While he enjoyed playing wide receiver that first year, he hadn’t fallen in love with the sport quite yet.
Sophomore year, he opted to forego playing football, instead focusing on basketball, baseball and track. That’s when the football team’s strength coach, who also coached the wide receivers, began trying to convince Humphreys to come back to the team, telling him, “I think this could be something good for you.” The head coach chimed in, bringing up the fact that playing football could help Humphreys pay for his college education, which he said was a “crazy idea” to him at the time.
The next year, Humphreys rejoined the football team as a wide receiver and punter.
“It was an enjoyable experience,” he said. “I had learned a lot more about the game just by paying attention to it more, watching it on TV and whatnot. It was a fun year overall. Every day, I was learning something new. I had a good year there, and then senior year was awesome as well. It was something that I grew to love more and more every day, and I knew there were so many things I had to learn.”
When it came to choosing football over the plethora of other sports Humphreys played, it came down to his high school head coach’s comment about college football scholarships. For Humphreys, wide receiver was the position he enjoyed most, and football was the sport he said provided him with the most options to receive a scholarship for most or all of his college education.
Deciding to be a Dore
For about 15 years, Humphreys’ father, an All-American pole vaulter at Auburn, was a coach for the Vanderbilt track and field team. Nashville was his hometown, and Vanderbilt was a place with which Humphreys and his family were familiar.
“I grew up always being a fan, just being around,” he recalled. “I saw the old Star-V a lot and getting to see the new one and understanding why that’s a thing now is a really cool experience that I’m lucky to have.”
His college decision came down to Vanderbilt or Virginia. On paper, they seemed very similar to Humphreys, who noted that “they were two smart schools that had newer head coaches.” The difference maker was Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea.
“What he’s about is awesome,” Humphreys stated. “It came down to how much I liked Coach Lea, how good of a guy he seemed to be, Coach [Alex] Bailey, the wide receivers coach, and [Joey] Lynch, the OC. Also, the opportunity to have family so close was something I just couldn’t pass up.”
Getting to Work
Entering his freshman season with the Commodores, Humphreys knew it would be a challenge, but it was an exciting one. His high school coaches had told him, “College isn’t like high school. It’s a job.” To manage all the challenges that being a student-athlete at Vanderbilt brings, Humphreys has maintained goals of doing his best and trying to get to know everyone on the team better.
“[Playing wide receiver] is something I love to do,” he said. “I can always make it feel like playing backyard football. You get to run around and have a good time. I knew it was going to be very difficult, but I had never really set an idea in my head about what it would be like. I just kind of show up and go with it. They’re going to teach us, and they’re going to show us what to do. I kind of just enjoy the process.”
Vanderbilt’s receiver group has also been helpful making Humphreys’ transition to college a little smoother. Jayden McGowan, Humphreys mentioned, has been especially helpful, having been a freshman under Coach Lea just last year. Senior Will Sheppard and junior Richie Hoskins were also named by Humphreys as teammates from whom he can learn.
“[Hoskins] was someone I could always watch film with,” Humphreys stated. “When it came to just trying to learn the playbook, he was always around. He was always in the facility, so he’s a huge help and a good guy.”
Seeing the Success
The week of the game at UNLV, Humphreys was “excited about the whole deal.” It was his farthest he’d ever been from Tennessee, and the game was played in Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. During practice that week, he focused on knowing his job and being able to execute in all the positions that he could be put. For a good portion of the week, Coach Bailey had him running with the first group. When it came to be game time, Bailey told Humphreys to “go out there,” and he did just that.
In his first collegiate start, Humphreys recorded a team-best 102 yards on three catches, including a season-long 56-yard touchdown grab.
“It felt good to be out there and get so many reps, to have that full-game fatigue and having to work through that as well was something that was cool,” Humphreys said.
Although he didn’t know he has going to start until game time, Humphreys did know the team’s offensive plan and had worked all week to get the plays down.
“It keeps you on your toes and keeps me always focused,” Humphreys said. “I think that’s a thing with Coach Bailey too, to keep going, keep going, keep going. I’m grateful for that because he’s not going to let you forget that. There’s never a time to settle, especially in the SEC. There are always things to work on.”
Starting SEC Play
Per Humphreys, communication will be key in Saturday’s game against Kentucky. It’s something he said will be a focus for the whole team, not just one position group or person.
“Positionally, we’re putting together base plays. It was good to see a scout on how their team is going to play defense, certain plays we think are going to work well consistently against their defense. There are things we don’t know because a team could obviously show up and play any defense they want but as a team, we’re very excited, especially for the SEC.”
After two weeks on the road, Vanderbilt football will be back in action at home on Saturday when it takes on Kentucky at 11 a.m. on SEC Network.