Marlon Humphrey may always be Bobby Humphrey's kid, and he is fine with that.
The redshirt freshman cornerback has grown up hearing stories about his father, who played football for the Crimson Tide from 1985 to 1988 and left as the school's all-time leading rusher. The younger Humphrey signed with Alabama in 2014 as the nation's top corner prospect according to 247Sports.com, and he is blazing his own path with 13 starts this season as a redshirt freshman entering Thursday night's Cotton Bowl against Michigan State.
"My dad was a great player here, and I'm happy I could follow in his footsteps," Humphrey said.
Alabama's players flew to Dallas on Saturday morning and practiced Saturday afternoon, working out for 90 minutes at Coppell High School before attending a welcoming dinner at AT&T Stadium. The Crimson Tide opened this season at AT&T Stadium, defeating Wisconsin 35-17.
Shortly after Saturday's arrival, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, tailback Derrick Henry and inside linebacker Reggie Ragland took part in brief news conferences.
"We're here to play the game and win the game," Ragland said. "We're not here to be celebrated, even though that's probably what's going to happen. It's about being focused on the game. I'm not worried about all that funny stuff. I'm worried about getting the job done."
Said Saban: "We had really good preparation back in Tuscaloosa before the Christmas break. I think the most important thing now is everybody get the mindset back to get ready to play a football game and probably a very challenging game from any perspective."
Alabama will practice the next three days at AT&T Stadium.
Humphrey's father rushed for 1,471 yards during the 11-game regular season in 1986, including a riveting 217-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 56-28 win at Tennessee that halted a four-year losing streak to the Volunteers. He came back with 1,255 yards in 1987 and finished his career with 3,420 yards.
That record lasted for 11 years, until Shaun Alexander compiled 3,565 yards from 1996 to 1999.
Humphrey's mother set a UAB record in the 400 meters (53.30 seconds) that still stands, and Marlon excelled in track as well while growing up in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover. The 6-foot-1, 192-pounder won the 110-meter hurdles (13.67) and the 400 hurdles (50.75) at the 2013 World Youth Track & Field Trials.
Heading into the Cotton Bowl, Humphrey has compiled 40 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and two forced fumbles, yet he realizes that Spartans quarterback Connor Cook may pick on him more than opposite cornerback Cyrus Jones.
"When you look at me, why would you not throw at me?" he said. "I'm a freshman with an All-SEC corner on the other side. Why would you not? That's something I think about every time I set foot on the field."
Even if Alabama advances Thursday night and plays for the national championship on Jan. 11, these are bittersweet days for Humphrey. Like every other Crimson Tide defensive back, Humphrey built a bond during the recruiting process with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Smart was named the head coach at Georgia earlier this month, so his run in Tuscaloosa will end when Alabama's fate in the four-team playoff is sealed.
"He's meant a lot to me," Humphrey said. "He recruited me and really wanted me to come here, so I have a lot of love for Coach Smart."
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