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Marlon Humphrey's Championship Hunger Goes Way Back

CB Marlon Humphrey
CB Marlon Humphrey

It wasn't hard to find Marlon Humphrey this summer in his hometown of Hoover, Ala. Wake up at sunrise. Go to the high school football field.

That's where Humphrey often began his day, sweating and training, showing Hoover High's football team what dedication looks like.

"That drive you see is something Marlon's always had," said Josh Niblett, Hoover High's head coach. "He always wanted to be coached hard. We talk to our players about him, but not just about how great his talent is. We talk about how hard he strives to reach the next level, and they get to see it.

"Last season didn't end like the Ravens wanted it to end. It's driven him. He wants to help them finish this year. They've got the ballclub to get it done. A Super Bowl is not in the back of Marlon's mind. It's in the front."

Winning championships is in Humphrey's DNA. He won a state title at Hoover in 2013. He won a national championship at Alabama in 2015, where anything less is viewed as a disappointing season. The walls of his childhood home is littered with track and football accomplishments.

Humphrey thought the Ravens were going to win the Super Bowl last season. When they didn't, it stung him deeply. He was in Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida on Super Bowl Sunday, walking around the field a few hours before kickoff and watching the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers warm up. That experience stuck with Humphrey. He is determined to return to the Super Bowl, not as a spectator but as a participant.

"The energy I felt down there in Miami, it really just triggered my whole offseason into thinking, 'Man, the only thing I really want is a Super Bowl,'" Humphrey said. "I know Lamar [Jackson] has spoken about that a lot. He's the leader of this group, and we're all trying to get the same thing. That's the mindset we're trying to take every day in practice, every day in meetings and all the things we do – it's just eyes on that."

Spending extended family time in Hoover during the coronavirus was a blessing for Humphrey, the middle of five children in an extremely athletic and tight-knit household. Humphrey's father, Bobby, had two 1,000-yard seasons as an NFL running back after a legendary career at Alabama. His mother, Barbara, was a track star at Alabama-Birmingham. His brother, Maudrecus, was a wide receiver at Arkansas. His sister, Brittley, runs track at LSU. His brother, Marion, is the starting point guard at San Diego.

Marlon loves training with his siblings, all of whom are competitive. The Humphrey brothers got creative in one summer workout by running up a massive rock pile at a quarry to test their leg strength, balance and endurance.

"The main thing I tried to do this offseason was just to get as much different types of work as I could," Humphrey said. "Anything that could get me at my highest heart-rate going. That rock pile was definitely pretty tough. My big brother, I don't think he worked out for another week – he was so out of it from that. It was really challenging." 

When he saw the video of Humphrey attacking the rock pile, Niblett said he chuckled but wasn't surprised. One of Humphrey's best attributes is his willingness to try new things.

"He's not trying to be the same as he was yesterday," Niblett said. "He's trying to be better. I've never been to a Ravens' practice, but I'm sure he brings good juice to the field. He's infectious. He likes to work. He loves to compete.

"If somebody catches a ball on him, he'll give the guy credit. But he's not going to let one play ruin his day. He doesn't stay in the past. He gets into the next moment. When his finest hour comes, he's ready for it."

Humphrey did everything you could ask of a cornerback in 2019. He played outside, he played the slot, he sometimes traveled with the opposing team's best receiver, and he played the most defensive snaps on the team.

His season was exemplified by one spectacular play in Week 4, when Humphrey punched the football away from Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in overtime, then reacted quicker than anyone else to make the fumble recovery.

Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale isn't afraid to use different combinations, and Humphrey will play a key role in many packages. The return of nickel cornerback Tavon Young from a neck injury should allow Humphrey to play outside more this season, joining Pro Bowler Marcus Peters as the best starting cornerback tandem in football.

Humphrey was hands down the best player in training camp last year, setting the tone for his breakout season. It's possible he'll be the best player at camp again.

"I would say he's notched it up, one more notch, from an attention to detail to intensity perspective." Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Marlon is all over the field. He's physical, he's running to the ball, eyes are where they're supposed to be in coverage. Some guys aren't mature enough to handle the attention and he's really done a good job of that so far in training camp. I don't think for one second anything will change going forward. That's just the type of person he is." 

With his passion and talent, it's almost a given that Humphrey will have another outstanding season. But he wants that special ending, a season that ends in glory, like his state championship season at Hoover, or his national championship season at Alabama.

Niblett saw how hard Humphrey worked this offseason. He hopes Humphrey gets the Super Bowl ring he craves.

"You can be great for a moment in time, but greatness is a legacy," Niblett said. "He wants to win a Super Bowl. It's a goal everybody can strive for. Marlon's ready to do his part to help the Ravens get there."

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