Texas' Swiss Army knife: Lil'Jordan continues evolution

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Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

While Lil’Jordan Humphrey was playing high school football at Southlake Carroll, he knew he was going to play Division I ball. He just wasn’t sure what position, or what school he’d play at.

The junior wide receiver’s offensive identity hasn’t always been as certain as it is now. Long before Humphrey recorded 143 receiving yards and a touchdown in Texas’ one-point loss to West Virginia, Lil’Jordan played tailback at Southlake. Despite playing safety during his freshman year, when it came time to begin his recruiting process, he knew he didn’t want anything to do with the defensive end of the ball.

“I knew I wasn’t going to play defense,” Humphrey said. “I just want the ball in my hands. I feel like I do better with the ball in my hands. Whatever schools told me they would keep me on offense and give me a chance to either play running back or receiver, I went with it. And Texas gave me that chance.”

Once Humphrey arrived at Texas, he transitioned to wide receiver after playing tailback most of his life.

“LJ has improved steadily ever since we’ve been here. He had that fight-for-the-ball mentality,” head coach Tom Herman said during a press conference on Monday. “That’s something that’s difficult to coach and teach. You either kind of have it or you don’t. He certainly has it.”

That “fight-for-the-ball mentality” was on full display in the first quarter on Saturday afternoon when Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger found himself evading an aggressive West Virginia pressure. Ehlinger threw a ball off his back foot before getting thrown to the ground.

The ball reached Humphrey, who jumped and reached over a West Virginia defensive back for a huge 23-yard gain to put Texas at the one yard line.

“Sam was just throwing me the ball and I was doing everything I could do to keep us in the game,” Humphrey said modestly.

That catch was just one of his nine receptions in yet another big performance for Humphrey, who is now accountable for seven touchdowns: five receiving, one rushing and one passing after completing a jump pass to wide receiver Collin Johnson.

The Humphrey-Johnson combination has proven lethal so far this season. The two receivers will likely find a home in the NFL sooner rather than later, but for now, they are continuing to give Big 12 defenses headaches, accounting for a combined 12 total touchdowns.

“I talk to him before we go out there on the field. We look at each other and say, ‘Let’s go do our thing, bro,’” Johnson said. “He’s a man of very few words. He’s like that with everyone. He only talks if he has something to say. He’ll say some stuff here and there but his play is loudest of all.”

Now, with three season-defining games remaining on the schedule for the Longhorns, Humphrey must now think about sitting down with his loved ones to seriously consider declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft rather than returning for his senior year.

As for the near future, Humphrey made one thing clear. While he is considering forgoing his senior season, he has no intention of skipping Texas’ bowl game like many players decide to do after declaring for the draft. “I’m playing in a bowl game regardless. I don’t have a ring, so I want a ring,” Humphrey said. “I’ll definitely play in a bowl game.”