D.J. Humphries picks Florida Gators

CHARLOTTE -- Offensive tackle D.J. Humphries was the guest of honor as he was scheduled to announce his college decision, but he had his eye on someone else. A pretty young lady would soon be the center of attention.

So when it was time to reach for the ball cap to signal his commitment to Florida, the nation's top offensive tackle and No. 7 overall prospect shunned tradition, reached into his sport coat and pulled out a Gator pacifier and handed it to his one-year-old sister.

"I'm going to miss so much of her life while I'm in college," Humphries said. "I'll be leaving in January and she'll be doing the main growing while I'm in college."

Another one of Humphries' three sisters already has plans for her big brother's life after college.

"One of my little sisters actually told me 'Well, when you go to the NFL, I'm just going to get a TV show and live off of you.'" Humphries said with a smile. "I said 'Hold on there, I'm not a receiver. It doesn't work like that with offensive linemen.'"

The announcement, while a surprise to the hundreds that gathered at Humphries' high school, was not news to Florida. Turns out Humphries told first-year Gators coach Will Muschamp of his decision on Aug. 3, Muschamp's birthday.

"I could hear him drop the phone and screaming for all the coaches to come into the office," Humphries said recalling the moment.

Humphries, who will enroll at Florida in January, knew even longer than that. He was sure he wanted to be a Gator when he returned home from a visit to Gainesville in March. As for second place, the Tennessee Vols hold that dubious distinction thanks to a close relationship Humphries built with coach Derek Dooley and recruiting coordinator Terry Joseph.

Humphries' commitment is another impressive building back in Florida's strong class, which is ranked third in the nation and features 17 commitments, including seven from within the ESPNU 150. The Gators also seem to be setting up roots in North Carolina.

"I've been behind the scenes recruiting for awhile," Humphries said. "They've put together a great class. We're working on a lot of guys in this state, trying to take over North Carolina."

Humphries is the second North Carolina prospect to commit to Florida, along with safety Rhaheim Ledbetter from Shelby (N.C.) Crest. Ledbetter's teammate, defensive end Jonathan Bullard, is also strongly considering Florida.

"You get to Florida and see all those palm trees and you're like 'Man, I'm tired of pine trees.'" Humphries joked.

Humphries said he chose the Gators because he felt like he could spend the next 40 years of his life in Gainesville and that he appreciated Muschamp and his coaching staff's hunger to help Florida back to an elite level.

Many expected Florida to secure Humphries' services, in part, because of a relationship he has with former Gator offensive lineman Mo Collins, who trains Charlotte area prospects. But that wasn't the case.

"Everybody thinks that he had an influence but we probably talked about Florida once and I've been working out with him for a year-and-a-half. That was when I asked him how the heat was," Humphries said. "He told me from the jump 'I can tell you're going to be a great athlete and I'll never push Florida or tell you anything about Florida unless you ask me.'"

Humphries said he still plans to take official visits to Texas and California, two locations he couldn't travel to this summer. He said Muschamp was OK with the trips.

Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said much of what makes Humphries such a great prospect is he's the right kind of big.

"They love him because they want them lean coming out of high school," Palmieri said of his 6-foot-6, 275-pounder.

Humphries' quickness should help him in college as he'll be able to deal with speedy defensive ends and even faster pass-rushing linebackers in a 3-4 scheme.

His maturity should help too. Some have wondered if Humphries was too caught up in the process when he cut off media and college coaches in June. That, however, doesn't seem to be the case. With a Shaquille O'Neal-like playfulness, Humphries smiles often and jokes around but, according to his coach, is quite humble.

"He is what we try to get all the kids to become. He's a leader," Palmieri said. "He's the type of kid that you know is going to make the right decisions. That comes from his parents."

Humphries' father, D.J. Humphries Sr., closed the press conference with an emotional thank you to Mallard Creek's coaching staff and faculty. He said he still recalled when his son was moved to offensive tackle as a freshman, how bad he hated it and how sure he was that he should be a tight end. That was an obvious crossroad in young Humphries' life.

"I didn't think he was going to be anything on the field and off the field it was borderline," the elder Humphries recalled with a shaking voice. "He could have easily gone the wrong way, but all the good stuff that's been said about him is a direct response to all the effort they put into him."

Good student. Great football player. Better brother.

Dave Hooker covers Southeast and Atlantic Coast recruiting. He has covered recruiting and college football for over a decade. Email him at davehookerespn@gmail.com.