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‘Knee-deep’ nickname will always motivate Cardinals’ D.J. Humphries

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones (55) and linebacker D.J. Humphries (74) run drills as teammates watch during an NFL football practice, Monday, July 30, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries came around eventually.

A first-round pick in 2015, he entered the NFL with a steep learning curve when it came to maturity and consistency. In his rookie season, when then-Arizona head coach Bruce Arians was asked what it took to motivate Humphries, Arians revealed that he nicknamed the rookie “knee-deep.”

“A knee in his (expletive) every day,” the coach said. “A foot wasn’t going to do it, so I nicknamed him ‘knee deep.’”

Humphries didn’t know how to react to the nickname then, especially when Arians let the nickname stick publicly. He still doesn’t, but entering his fourth NFL season, the Cardinals’ starting left tackle knows that it at least did something to motivate him — eventually.

“I mean, I still get pissed off every time I hear it. No question,” Humphries told Doug & Wolf Tuesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“Anytime I see B (Arians), I still think about it. I don’t think that will go anywhere because that was just one of the moments in my life where I don’t know if that’s what I needed — I don’t know if that really helped me at all — but it in turn it helped me later when I was able to mature and take it the right way and use it as fuel.”

Arians eventually came around on trusting Humphries, who started at right tackle during 2016, took over for injured veteran left tackle Jared Veldheer late in the year and held onto the job entering last season. But knee injuries limited Humphries to five games in 2017.

Now Humphries is healthy days out from this season’s opener against the Washington Redskins, the 24-year-old is firmly in place as the Cardinals’ starting left tackle of the future.

And looking back on a rocky rookie season that included accepting a harsh nickname, he’s found a love for the game that’s driven his motivation positively.

“I have so many outside motivators, you know, just coming from where I come from, South Carolina, being able to do what I’m doing now and make it out of that situation,” Humphries said. “Having the family background I do — my dad pushed me the way he has and my mother the same way. But when I really fell in love with this game and when I figured out how much fun I was having trying to be the best, then it kind of just took over for me.

“That’s why you see me on the field laughing so much and grinning and (with) so much energy because I’m really having a ball,” he added. “I’m playing a kid’s game and I’m playing at a high level. That’s the thing I found again after my rookie year is having fun playing football. It’s been working for me.”

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