Adam Humphries is one of the bigger additions the Titans made this off season. Going from entering the league as an UDFA to signing a four-year contract worth $36 million dollars will put a lot of eyeballs on you. How did Adam Humphries get here? Naturally, I wanted to know more so I jumped on the phone with one of the first coaches to truly believed he could play at this level — Clemson wide receiver coach Jeff Scott.
Humphries played for Coach Scott throughout his entire time at Clemson. Few people had a closer seat to watch the maturation of Humphries both as a person and player. Coach Scott has coached a ton of talent including DeAndre Hopkins, and he provided me with some excellent insight into what the Titans are getting in Humphries.
JM: Adam Humphries is one of the more intriguing UDFA success stories in the league right now. Going from that UDFA status to recently signing a contract worth nearly $40 million dollars tells the story. What traits did you identify in him when you first saw him?
CJS: It’s funny because his high school recruitment was very similar to what he ended up going through at the NFL level as well. We were his only Division I offer coming out of high school. The reason we felt strongly enough about him to make him an offer is because we had watched him for four years on the football field and on the basketball court as we were recruiting one of his teammates, Charone Peake who’s with the New York Jets right now. Peake was a big time 5-star recruit.
Adam’s work ethic makes him special. It’s second to none. I’ve been very fortunate to coach a lot of successful players here at Clemson. The way he goes about his business, he’s a master of the details. He understands the little things that lead to the big things. He was a guy that would do it right every time. If he messed up once or twice, I knew it would never happen again. He was always working to perfect his craft. He was able to outperform other players who were more talented or maybe had more God given ability than he did. His work ethic and knowledge of the game have been the backbone to his success.
JM: His journey at Clemson has been well documented. Travis Haney of The Athletic recently wrote a great piece on him. One of the more interesting details to me was how his high school force fed him the ball during one game that you were in attendance for. His dad even pulled you aside and asked if you truly thought he could play football at Clemson. At that time, you didn’t know much about his work ethic yet. Why were you so convinced that he could play at Clemson despite the size limitations?
CJS: To be honest with you, a big part of it was the heavy recommendation from his high school coach Dave Gutshall. Coach Gutshall is one of the most respected high school coaches in our state. He’s been around for a long time and he’s coached a lot of great players. We have a very good relationship with him. He was 100% convinced that Adam not only could play at our level, but that he could really make an impact for our team. It’s not unusual for a high school coach to stand on the table for one of his kids, but coach Gutshall went above and beyond that. When he told us about Adam, we began to see those qualities that coach Gutshall told us about.
I started to think that this may be one of those diamond in the rough type of situations. He was averaging like 22 points per game as a point guard while playing at the highest classification in our state. He played cornerback. He just did so many different things. We really started to buy into the fact that this was a football player. He may not have the size or speed some of these other guys have, but he loves football and he’s serious about it. This is the kinda guy that can help our program win football games.
JM: You’ve coached so many great receivers in your time at Clemson. Adam arrived there specifically when you already had Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant in the fold. His skill set is obviously very different from those guys. Aside from that, what made him different?
CJS: I’d say his toughness. He’s a tough, physical kid. He did a lot of blocking for us. Sammy Watkins was a guy that was very electric for us with the ball in his hands. We threw Sammy a lot of quick screens and Adam was the guy doing a lot of the dirty work in our offense. He never backed down from that. He took that on as a challenge. I see Sammy all the time and I tell him that he owes Adam some money (laughs). He helped get Sammy to where he is now. Adam spent half his career here blocking for Sammy (laughs). Adam was just a physical presence out there. He was willing to sacrifice his body. He wanted to do whatever it took as a blocker.
He’s the kinda guy that seemed to come up with the big play when we needed it. He would pick up the critical third downs. He learned all of the wide receiver positions. When we had an injury somewhere, Adam was the guy we could plug in and trust that he was ready to go. You’re always looking for those kind of guys. You can never have too many of them.
JM: Do you coach or teach an athlete like Adam differently than you would a DeAndre Hopkins?
CJS: They’re different players but we’re always trying to coach them fundamentally. 90% of the time, I’m coaching the fundamentals. That doesn’t change. It stays very similar. I do think each player is a little bit different. To be a really good coach, you have to understand your players strengths and weaknesses to really be able to help them individually. That’s what sets a great coach apart. I think overall, 90% of what we’re coaching is the same. We’re trying to get guys to buy into the fundamentals of the position.
JM: How do you think playing alongside all the great receivers we’ve mentioned helped shape him into the player he is today?
CJS: First of all, iron sharpens iron. He had to compete in order to play here. He set the record for the most games played by a Clemson receiver. To get an opportunity to play at this level, to become a starter and a mainstay in our lineup, you have to compete every day. I think the confidence that he was able to gain from that experience was huge for him. As he started to realize that he belonged on our field next to guys like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, he began to realize that he had a very unique skill set himself. He can do some things differently from what those guys can do because of his size and quickness. The confidence he gained while at Clemson really helped him when it was time for him to take the next step at the NFL level.
JM: That’s an interesting point. When you think of his time at Clemson, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
CJS: What comes to mind for me as a coach, he’s one of the few players that I’ve coached where anytime we made a play call and I knew Adam was about to get the ball or he has a very important assignment on the field, he was one of the few guys where I could literally turn my back in the middle of the play and start coaching the guys on the sidelines. I knew he was going to do it exactly right. A lot of your guys know what the play is and they know what their job is, but you still wanna watch them to make sure they do it right. He was just one of those rare guys where I literally turned my back many times to get a guy on the sidelines ready for the next play. I had so much confidence that he was going to do things the right way.
I had to watch his plays at least twice on Sunday’s to make sure I could find one or two negatives because I never wanted to give out a grade of 100 (laughs). He was always grading in that 96-98th percentile every single week.
JM: That really says something about him given the guys you’ve coached in that Clemson receiver room. What do you think is the best route he runs?
CJS: Oh man, that’s tough. He played in the slot for us as well. I think for us, it was all of those quick option routes. The routes that allowed him to go and separate from a defender whether going inside or outside. Those routes are critical in those third-and-4 situations. He would come off the line and have the option to go either way. He was able to make the right decision and be on the same page with the quarterback. That was always the route that he had a really good knack for. He was very natural with that.
JM: Going back to what you said about how you could turn your back in the middle of a play because you knew he was gonna do things right. Marcus Mariota hasn’t had much reliability at the receiver position throughout his time as a Titan. How much does a reliable receiver like Adam help out a quarterback?
CJS: I think it’s huge. When you get in critical situations as a quarterback, you’re always looking for the guy you can count on. There’s an old saying that I think Peyton Manning once said and I have it up in my receiver room. It basically says, “On Sunday’s, I’m looking for the guys that get open in practice.” It’s about knowing which guys are consistent. It’s about knowing who’s gonna be where when they’re supposed to be there. Timing is everything. Every quarterback is fortunate if they have one or two of those guys on their team. You have some guys that are very explosive and may be a different type of play maker, but when it gets down to the critical moments, you want a guy that you can trust is gonna be where he’s supposed to be. That’s how you ultimately move the football and win games.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today coach. Your insight has been incredibly valuable. In closing, is Adam the kinda guy who takes on a leadership role or is he more of a keep your head down and lead by example kinda guy?
CJS: I think he’s grown in that area. I talk to him from time to time when he has a chance to get back here. When he first got here, there were a bunch of big time players all around him. He kinda kept his mouth shut and went about his business. As he grew and matured, he became one of the big leaders in our room during his senior year. I think now with what he’s been able to add to his resume, what he did in his time in Tampa Bay, I think he’s going to Tennessee with the confidence to become a leader for them and help that wide receiver room and offense as a whole.