Once rivals, WRs Ryan Newsome and John Humphrey hope to lead ASU

Apr 5, 2017, 5:19 PM | Updated: 5:20 pm
ASU wide receivers Ryan Newsome (left) and John Humphrey (right) pose for a picture on Wednesday, F...
ASU wide receivers Ryan Newsome (left) and John Humphrey (right) pose for a picture on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 in Tempe. (Photo by Nicole Praga/Cronkite News)
(Photo by Nicole Praga/Cronkite News)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Wide receivers Ryan Newsome and John Humphrey have found a home at Arizona State.

Humphrey, in fact, is so content that he barely flinched recently when sophomore quarterback Brady White gave him what looked like a wet willie midway during an interview with a journalist. And he smiled when Newsome literally hopped by, giddy at the prospect of distracting his teammate.

That contentment is good news for ASU football. The two started their careers at rival powerhouses — Texas and Oklahoma — and are teaming up with the hope of building a new one in Tempe.

“We had a good relationship with each other and I’m just happy he’s on my team now,” Humphrey said.

It didn’t always look like that would be the case. At one point, the duo was only slated to share a field once a year in a rivalry game: Newsome with the Longhorns and Humphrey with the Sooners.

Interestingly, both have ties to Jay Norvell. The former ASU receivers coach recruited Humphrey to Oklahoma. And after he left for Texas in January of 2015, he was Newsome’s wide receivers coach.

Norvell was hired to be an assistant at ASU in February of 2016 and the two players soon followed him to Tempe. Norvell has since left for the head coaching job in Nevada but the two players remain happy with their new home.

Newsome was an explosive wide receiver at Aledo (Texas) High School, where he averaged more than 17 yards a catch, according to MaxPreps, and was considered by ESPN to be one of the top 200 prospects in the nation.

After a lengthy recruiting process that forced Newsome to sift through more than 40 offers, including ones from Alabama, Florida State, and USC, he decided in January of 2015 to commit to UCLA over Texas. At the time, he almost called the decision off and admitted that he wasn’t sure where he was going until he walked into his high school auditorium to announce.

He later change his mind and flipped to Texas on signing day.

Humphrey and Newsome were four-star recruits, according to ESPN — Humphrey was ranked just one spot behind Newsome among wide receivers — and known for their speed.

“I would kind of see him on the track circuit every now and then,” Newsome said.

They also faced each other in the Red River Rivalry game.

“He was talking his trash, I was talking mine,” Newsome said. “It’s a great historic rivalry man. It’s pretty special.”

It was 2015, and Texas upset the 10th-ranked Sooners (in what turned out to be their only regular season loss) 24-17. Newsome, who played a limited role for the Longhorns as a kick returner, didn’t touch the ball, Humphrey was redshirting and didn’t play at all.

That ended up being the high point of the season for the Longhorns, who finished 5-7 and lost Norvell to Arizona State in February of 2016.

Humphrey, apparently unhappy at Oklahoma with future Biletnikoff winner Dede Westbrook and a number of other receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, decided to join him.

Newsome not seeing a role for himself in new Texas offensive coordinator Sterling Gilbert’s offense, according to 247sports’ Jeremy Clark, went ahead and made it a trio.

Since the sport’s earliest days, Oklahoma and Texas have been college football superpowers and that success has continued into the new millennium with the school’s combining for 11 Big 12 titles and a national championship a piece. Now their loss is Arizona State’s gain.

“Can’t say enough good things about those guys,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “They embody what being a Sun Devil is all about. I think those guys are going to be leaders.

“That’s very difficult to do, to come into a place and only be here a year and be a leader, but those guys are special. I’ve been very pleased with them both. Those guys are very explosive.”

It wasn’t easy. NCAA bylaws mandated that they each sit out a year, and it was the second year in a row for Humphrey, who had redshirted, with no football.

“Just really knowing that I’m practicing all week and not playing on Saturday, that really hurt the most,” Humphrey said.

The duo supported each other by working out together and keeping their rivalry alive, even watching their former schools play each other last October.

ASU wide receivers coach Rob Likens has an idea of how he wants to utilize the duo.

“They both bring different skill sets so we can move them around in different places and get them the football and use their speed,” Likens said.

The new coach cautions there’s more to it than that though.

“They’re fast guys and just getting them to play fast is the biggest thing,” he said. “A lot of people think just because you’re fast you’re fast on the football field and that’s a myth, that’s not true.

“You’ve got to learn to attack routes. When guys jump out in front of you, you can’t raise your shoulders up, bring your feet together. You’ve got to learn to just keep running and avoid contact and those are the little things those guys got to learn.”

Newsome and Humphrey have returned the respect, with Newsome loving the confidence new offensive coordinator Billy Napier has in him. Humphrey thinks the Sun Devils have the best group of receivers in the nation.

So that leaves just one question: Which one of the speedy receivers is faster?

When asked, Graham looked like someone who was asked to pick his favorite kid but answered anyway.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone faster (than Humphrey) that’s for sure. He’s pretty fast, but Ryan’s pretty fast too, I don’t know who would win that between those two guys.”

Newsome thinks he does.

“In the 100, he ain’t going to get me, he ain’t going to come close, but in the 40 he might.”

First friends, then rivals? They represent the threat that will keep Pac-12 defensive coordinators losing sleep.

Penguin Air

Cronkite Sports

Cronkite Sports

Sports gambling in Arizona moves closer to reality

In the near future, the Arizona sports fan’s experience could include the ability to place bets inside sports venues while the action unfolds.
1 year ago
Higley quarterback Kai Millner committed to Cal this spring, despite visiting the campus just once ...
Cronkite Sports

Arizona high school football recruits still committing amid coronavirus

Despite visiting campuses few times if at all in some cases, class of 2021 high school football prospects from Arizona are committing at record rates.
2 years ago
(Photo via Cronkite News courtesy Mesa Community College Facebook)...
Arizona Sports

COVID-19 prompts junior colleges to push for cancellation of sports

The 2020-21 school year for Maricopa County community colleges may not include sports, schools await a decision by the district chancellor.
2 years ago
New Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez believes outreach in the Arizona Hispanic market is ...
Cronkite Sports

New Coyotes CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez looks to reach Latino community

New Coyotes CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez is the first Latino president and CEO in NHL history and hopes to reach new fans in the Valley.
2 years ago
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who joined the Phoenix Mercury in the offseason, is ready to get the WNBA...
Cronkite Sports

Full pay, 22-game season in Florida on tap for Phoenix Mercury

Another league has agreed on a return-to-play plan in the month of July. This time it’s the WNBA, whose members include the Phoenix Mercury.
2 years ago
Phoenix Rising FC assistant coaches Peter Ramage (left) and Blair Gavin are awaiting details about ...
Cronkite Sports

Phoenix Rising players await news on resumption of USL Championship

Phoenix Rising FC and the USL Championship are set to resume play July 11 while players wait on more details for the return.
2 years ago
Once rivals, WRs Ryan Newsome and John Humphrey hope to lead ASU