TEMPE, Ariz. — To know why Arizona Cardinals first-round draft pick D.J. Humphries is who he is, look no further than his father.
“My dad always told me when I was a kid if you be yourself then people are going to love you,” he said Friday, the day after the Cardinals made him the 24th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
“I feel like him being in my life affected me positively. He means the world to me, man.”
Humphries was born to teenage parents on Dec. 28, 1993.
His father, D.J. Sr., was 15 and his mother, Keisha Means, was 16 at the time.
Early on, Humphries was raised by his mom, though dad was always nearby.
That changed when Humphries was 12, he said, and he moved in with his dad.
“It was getting to be that age where I was becoming a teenager and I was living with my mom. I needed to be with my dad, to have that man in my life,” he said.
Mom understood, according to Humphries.
“It kind of hurt her,” he said. “She knew I needed to move in with my dad but she loved me so much she didn’t want me to let me go. They never had any problems or anything to where it would be an argument about letting me go. She knew that I had to leave. She knew it was going to work out for the best. And to see how it worked out for the best, she’s so emotional about it all the time. She’s so excited. She knew the path that I was on and she knew which way I was going and she knew what I needed. She’s so excited that it all worked out.”
Of course having a young father meant having a different childhood. Humphries found this out through stories about his upbringing.
“I never used to be in a car seat when I was with him,” he said. “I was a front seat rider when I was with him. He was like, ‘man, I was so young, I didn’t know any better.’ He’s like, ‘I know better now. I thought you’d be fine.’ That’s probably why I’m so tough. He probably got me whiplashed when I was a kid or something.”
Looking back, Humphries can now laugh about those days.
But it was no laughing matter growing up.
Humphries’ father was strict and not afraid to punish his young son when he got out of line.
“Oh, yeah. (My dad was) very hard (on me),” he said. “I think it was just because he was so young. A lot of the stuff, like I said, he didn’t know any better. A lot of the stuff he knew the answer was ‘crack-the-whip.’ That was his answer to a lot of stuff. I feel like it made me who I am today, don’t get me wrong. I feel like it made me who I am today, but he was definitely hard on me.
“It pays off.”
It paid off in a big way when Humphries became the first Florida offensive lineman selected in the first round since 2011 and the first Florida player ever drafted by the Cardinals in round one.
Humphries said he and his father are often mistaken for brothers, which given the small age gap, is understandable.
Humphries didn’t want to imagine where he would be, growing up in South Carolina without his father.
“Man, there’s no telling,” he said. “I could probably be somewhere, prison or on the corner somewhere doing something illegal; something that I shouldn’t be. I’m super-excited to have him in my life.”