Every Tuesday and Thursday, SI Sooners will unveil a new installment in the Recruiting ROI series. Over the course of ten weeks, the series will examine 20 Sooners over the last 20 years who dramatically exceeded expectations in the crimson and cream.
When considering the most unexpected of Sooner stars, Creed Humphrey isn't a name that immediately comes to mind.
After all, the massive lineman was a four-star recruit and had 19 FBS offers out of high school, including ones from Texas A&M, Arizona State and Alabama.
But consider the bigger picture. Humphrey barely cracked 247Sports' composite top 300, coming in at No. 294. He barely ranked as a top-5 prospect in the state. He was by no means flotsam on the recruiting trail, but expectations for the Shawnee native weren't sky-high.
Humphrey strongly considered Texas A&M before signing with Oklahoma, giving the Sooners a clean sweep of the state's top 5 recruits (Justin Broiles, Levi Draper, Tre Brown and Isaiah Thomas were the others). It would have been easy to perceive the Sooners' addition of Humphrey as an expedient way to fill out the depth chart - after all, Bob Stoops and his staff needed to travel less than 50 miles to recruit him. But Humphrey would soon disprove that narrative in emphatic fashion.
When he stepped on campus in 2017, Humphrey was effectively buried on the depth chart behind Erick Wren and Jonathan Alvarez. Thus, he redshirted with hopes of contending for playing time the following year. And when the 2018 campaign rolled around, Humphrey made his mark.
With Wren graduated and off to the NFL, Humphrey's competition for the starting job at center was Alvarez. The former was a redshirt freshman, the latter a redshirt senior. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Alvarez would inherit the position, but Humphrey outflanked him throughout preseason practices and remarkably earned the nod. From there, the small-town Oklahoma kid never looked back.
Throughout the 2018 season, Humphrey firmly established himself as one of the top centers in the entire country. He was the lone underclassman on a loaded Sooners offensive line - in fact, all four of his fellow starters in the unit would become NFL draft picks.
Humphrey endeared himself to Sooner Nation forever in Oklahoma's Orange Bowl loss to Alabama. His helmet came off mid-play in the fourth quarter as Kyler Murray dropped back to pass. Undaunted, Humphrey held his block and played on as Murray scampered for an 8-yard touchdown. Though it wouldn't make a difference in an eventual 45-34 defeat, the youngster had officially earned his stripes.
Come 2019, Humphrey anchored a Sooner line that cleared the way for Jalen Hurts to compose one of the most prolific seasons in school history. At season's end, most expected Humphrey to make the jump to the NFL, as many experts had pegged the redshirt sophomore as a first-round draft pick. But Sooner Nation rejoiced when Humphrey announced he'd be returning for another shot at glory in the crimson and cream.
His journey in and through Norman is far from over, and all signs point toward a distinguished NFL career for Humphrey. All he has to do is keep blocking.
And regardless, he's already built his legacy in the eyes of the Oklahoma faithful. Creed Humphrey, the Sooners' resident small-town hero, will always be the kid that kept blocking.
Even when his helmet fell off.
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