Entering training camp last year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Adam Humphries admits he didn’t know quite what to expect.
He was an undrafted free agent and, outside of ACC football followers, not exactly a well-known name after four years at Clemson University. Then he was surrounded by established veterans and draft picks expected to make the team.
“When you first get here you’re kind of looking around seeing what other guys do,” Humphries said last month during the Bucs mandatory mini-camp. “You don’t really know how to take care of yourself as a pro – before and during practice, getting ready, stretching, all that stuff.”
Just like any other first-time training camp participant, from other undrafted rookies to No. 1 overall selection Jameis Winston, it can be challenging to prepare for something when there’s no real point of reference.
The odds aren’t stacked in favor of players in Humphries’ situation, but he got the invite and opportunity for a reason. That’s what Humphries focused on. That and making sure he spent the month of August supremely focused while leaving everything he had out on the practice fields of One Buccaneer Place.
The mindset and effort paid off. Humphries made all 5 feet, 11 inches and 195 pounds of himself visible during practice, caught passes thrown his way throughout the preseason (nine receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown) and found himself on the 53-man roster heading into Week 1.
“Coming in last year my expectations were just trying to make it through training camp and then work my way from there,” he said. “Obviously I had some good preseason games and ended up making the squad so that was awesome.”
Not only did Humphries make the squad, he managed to carve himself out a role as a sure-handed slot receiver Winston came to trust as a target. In 13 games, the 23-year-old pulled in 27 of his 41 targets for 260 yards, 18 first downs and one touchdown.
What last year did was provide Humphries with the confidence that he can in fact play in the league and the knowledge of what it takes to be an NFL football player. But that doesn’t mean it’s cruise-control time. Last year was last year and he’s preparing for 2016 training camp with the same make-the-team mentality.
“Even though I’ve been here I’ve got to have the same mindset,” Humphries said. “I have to win this spot year in and year out. No matter where I stand on the depth chart I still have to win the job coming back in town.”
And it’s a highly sought-after job this summer. The Bucs will enter training camp with 11 wide receivers fighting for six to seven active roster spots.
Among those 11 are Louis Murphy and Kenny Bell. Murphy, an eight-year vet, missed the final 10 weeks of the season with a knee injury. Bell, a fifth-round selection last year out of Nebraska, essentially red-shirted with the Bucs after injuring his hamstring and landing on injured reserve midway through the preseason schedule.
Along with Murphy and Bell are the team’s top two receivers, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, and returning contributors Donteea Dye Jr. and Russell Shepard. Then there are practice squad holdovers Evan Spencer and Andre Davis, in addition to Bernard Reedy and Freddy Martino.
It’ll be a crowded, competitive receivers room throughout camp and Humphries knows it. But armed with last year’s experience and a better understanding of what it takes to succeed, he said he’s excited for the challenge and what this team can accomplish in 2016.
“Obviously everyone wants to be better every year, so I think that’s the main goal,” he said. “I’m still working on what I want to do this year but I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do as a team and myself personally.”
“It’s great to have competitive depth like this because it keeps everyone on their toes and working hard. I’m fortunate to be in a room like what we have with our receivers.”