Cardinals tackle D.J. Humphries credits fatherhood for being the "fuse" he needed to spark his career.
Dash Jeremiah Humphries is only a little more than a year old, but he's made a big impact on the Cardinals and their offensive line.
His dad happens to be the team's left tackle.
"My child is the reason I'm still in the NFL," D.J. Humphries said. "On this team, anyway."
Humphries' story is well known. A 2015 first-round draft pick who was inactive his entire rookie season, lacking maturity needed when he got into the NFL. Offensive line coach Harold Goodwin and coach Bruce Arians referred to him as "Knee Deep," a nickname Humphries understandably did not love.
But Humphries did understand he needed to change. Once Dash was on the way – he was born in April of 2016, but altered Humphries' perspective in the months before -- it changed the way Humphries thought.
"You know how the NFL goes," Humphries said. "First-rounder don't work, you get a second year to figure it out, if the second year don't work out, you get traded. Or you're outta here, just sent on your way. So (Dash) was huge.
Imperative to my growth and taking the next step in understanding there are some things more important in this world than me and how I felt about things. There were certain things I needed to do to make sure to secure his future and have the lifestyle he deserves."
Since his rookie year ended, Humphries slowly made progress. Goodwin was the one who initially said Humphries' son made all the difference, something Humphries said he agreed with "100 percent." Now a season-and-a-half later, Humphries is settling into his left tackle role after missing more than a month with a knee injury.
Against the 49ers, the Cards took 23 of their 40 run plays left, according to Pro Football Focus, and gained 122 of 167 rushing yards behind the left side of the line – Humphries and left guard Alex Boone.
"He's always going to be 'Knee Deep,' but he's matured a whole lot," Goodwin said. "I'm proud of him."
Fatherhood wasn't all Humphries needed. He still needed to learn consistency as a blocker, and as it turned out, he needed to learn first playing the right tackle spot in the NFL and now the left side. That came with help from teammates.
Jared Veldheer, who ended up being moved to the right to let Humphries play on the left, was the one encouraging Humphries that he could make it on this level. Meanwhile, center A.Q. Shipley – a long-time veteran in Bruce Arians' system – was the technical support.
Shipley and Humphries live less than two miles from each other. So the two got together at Shipley's house about
three times a week, working plays on the grease board to make sure Humphries was going to be ready.
"I knew he wanted to get it, and I knew we had to rely on him – he was our guy," Shipley said.
There were, of course, other factors that led Humphries here. He finally realized it was a bad trend in his life that he wasn't ready when he first showed up to play places, even though he was physically ready – sitting as a freshman in high school and college as well as an NFL rookie.
He hated the fact the term "bust" was being used with his name as well.
"That's something for me, mentally, that sticks," said Humphries, who was only 21 when he entered the league in 2015. "I know how this league goes. You the guy when you're doing it right and as soon as you (expletive) it up, you're not. I try to remember that."
But Dash – D.J. for short, just like his dad, Demarcus Jamar – was the catalyst.
"Just knowing I was going to have to take care of someone and have the responsibility, I guess it lit a fuse under my ass," Humphries said. "A well-needed fuse, for sure."
Images of the 3-yard touchdown reception on Sunday against the 49ers