Marlon Humphrey, five-star cornerback from Hoover High School in Ala., pulled a stunner on Wednesday morning when he released a statement via Twitter about his commitment to the University of Alabama. Humphrey was scheduled to announce on signing day, but decided to end the process a week early.
"I am proud of him," said Hoover head coach Josh Niblett. "He was going to talk to me today about it, but we were out of school. He text me. It's official he is committed to Alabama.
"It's been a process where he wanted to go ahead and get it done. He didn't want to wait any longer. He knew where he wanted to go. He didn't want to make a big deal out of it."
Coach Niblett talked in-depth about Humphrey's decision.
"I have talked to him since early on," he said. "You want to go where you best feel where you fit. He had a lot of schools after him early on in the process. He wanted to be fair with himself. In the past year he got it narrowed down to the ones he felt like he could see himself playing.
"He is a great football player, but an incredible track athlete. He has a tremendous commitment level in both sports. He feels very comfortable with the University of Alabama. He is very excited about the opportunity of getting on the field early, but also the opportunity he has running track."
Humphrey's recruitment came down to a few schools including Alabama, Florida State, Mississippi State and UCLA. His top two for the last several months has been the Tide and Seminoles.
"To me it was very close, but also at the same time I am not going to press him about the recruiting process," said Niblett. "He knew I was here as a resource to help him and his family through this whole deal.
"Marlon handled it very well. He felt most comfortable with Alabama. This was the best decision for him. There is no doubt it was close. He is not one who will string you along. He is very in tune with what will make him successful not just long term, but in the near future.
"That was important for him. I do think it was a close race. I think he did a really good job of looking at the pros and cons of each school."
Humphrey has been a star for Hoover since he started his first game against South Panola High School (Batesville, Miss.) his sophomore year. Alabama landed the top player in the state with Humphrey's commitment. He is also the No. 9 player in the country.
"I think the biggest things as a corner is his physicality," his coach said. "He has great height, strength, a great body type and speed. His physicality really catches your eye.
"He is a great tackler. He is a ball hawk. He knows what it takes to get the ball out. You don't see a whole lot of guys who know how to do that as a corner. He is a great cover corner, but also great in run support. It's priceless.
"Everyone knows how great his speed is. He is a great hurdler with great hip flexibility. In the college game the speed will get faster. He is a student of the game. He is always working. He is always thinking in between reps. He was a great return guy for us. Alabama will put him in the best postion to be successful.
"I think there are things he can improve at the next level. There are things he will find out when he gets there. He had all the tools for us to be a great corner. [rl]
"The things he does within the scheme at our place can be different at Alabama whether he plays man or off-man. We feel like when kids get to the next level they are ready. We try to coach the player, not the scheme. I think it will be an ongoing process just getting better every day."
The Humphrey family handled the pressure to sign with Alabama very well.
"I am sure there are people who said 'Roll Tide' to him walking down the street, but he isn't influenced by outside crowd," Niblett said. "That's one thing that always impressed me about Marlon. He doesn't let circumstances dictate the choices he has to make.
"He always had a plan since he was little as far as what he wanted to do as far as track and football. He knew his dad played at Alabama. At the same time I don't think anyone said this is where you have to go and what you have to do. It was more people outside the bubble who made it more than it really was."
The three year recruiting process for Humphrey comes to an end. Coach Niblett will have plenty of college coaches come through Hoover to see the stars of the future, but he will always have a special relationship with Humphrey.
"Now he can relax a little bit," said Niblett. "He is an unbelievable kid. He means the world to me. He is more of a son to me. We have a great relationship off the field. He can come in my office just to talk. He always has a good one liner for me. He has always had a huge impact on me, our players and the student body."