- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.
The Iron Bowl. It’s arguably the greatest rivalry in college football. If there was any doubt about its place before this season, Chris Davis sealed it with his 100-yard field goal return for a touchdown from the back of his own end zone on the game’s final play. The two teams, Alabama and Auburn, played in the last five BCS title games, winning four of them.
It’s no wonder every young football player in the state dreams of playing for one of the two SEC rivals, and it’s why, if offered, the majority of the state’s top prospects end up choosing either the Crimson Tide or the Tigers.
There’s no pipeline out of Alabama. The path leads directly to Auburn or Tuscaloosa.
Don’t tell Marlon Humphrey that. The five-star cornerback from Hoover (Ala.) High School is the state’s No. 2 prospect and will decide between Alabama and Florida State on national signing day. Mississippi State and UCLA are also in the mix, but it looks as if the decision ultimately will come down to the Tide and the Seminoles.
If you were a betting man, you’d probably bet on Nick Saban and Alabama. Humphrey just returned from his official visit to Tuscaloosa. He lives less than an hour from UA’s campus, and his father, Bobby, was an All-American running back for the Tide back in the 1980s. It all makes sense for him to stay in state.
That’s not Humphrey, though. He doesn’t care what he "should" do.
“In our society today, he’s kind of a true man,” Hoover coach Josh Niblett said. “He’s a true guy’s guy. He knows what makes him happy. He knows what makes him tick. He knows what makes him go. He knows what makes him want to compete harder. And there’s a lot of people in this world who don’t know that.
“He’s not going to go somewhere where somebody says, ‘Hey, this is where you need to go or this is where your dad went to school or your dad didn’t go to school there.’ He’s going to go where he best feels like he fits what’s going on and where he can best be an asset to the program.”
What makes Humphrey tick is different from most. He has a unique personality, and, when it comes to recruiting, he has his own approach. This past April, he was invited to spring games at Alabama and at Auburn, but he instead chose to stay home and play video games, his own idea of "spring gaming."
Spring gaming pic.twitter.com/kv1MLRpVUi
— Fruit PUNCH (@marlon_humphrey) April 20, 2013
This summer, Humphrey missed The Opening, an elite camp featuring the nation’s top recruits, to instead take a trip to Ukraine to compete in the IAAF World Youth Championships. While there, he finished second in the world in the 110-meter hurdles. He nearly skipped his official visit to Florida State earlier this month for a track event in Iceland but decided at the last minute to stay and take the trip.
It’s not that he doesn’t care about recruiting and all that comes with it. He’s just not into it as much as some of the kids in this day and age.
“People see him as being cocky, but he’s more than that,” Humphrey’s teammate and 2015 running back Braderick Shaw said. “He’s a leader. He understands the game, and he just loves that he can compete. He wants to be great.
“At practice, he goes 100 percent every time. We’ll be doing special teams at practice, and he goes all out. He never slows down.”
It’s ultimately what has made Humphrey the player he is today. It’s why he can basically pick the school of his choice and why he’s choosing between the past two BCS national champions.
Humphrey declined to be interviewed for the story, as did his father, as the two are staying away from any interviews until after Humphrey makes his college choice, but that decision came as no surprise to his coach. As outspoken as Humphrey can seem on various social media sites, he has a reserved side, too. A more driven side.
“He just wants to go about his business, do what he’s got to do and be great at what he does,” Niblett said.
That’s why, when it comes time to make a decision, Humphrey won’t do it on television. He reluctantly agreed to do a ceremony at his high school with the rest of his teammates who are signing that day.
“We are trying to make this as normal as it has always been,” Hoover athletic director Myra Miles said in a report from AL.com. “He wants this day to be about everybody here at Hoover and not just himself.”
Will he continue the family legacy, follow in his dad’s footsteps and play for the Tide? Or will he buck the trend, leave the state of Alabama and sign with Florida State?
Only Humphrey knows.