TAMPA — Adam Humphries has faced long odds before.
A month ago, he wasn't just an undrafted rookie but a tryout player at Bucs rookie minicamp, showing enough in two days to earn a free agent contract. He has turned heads in the past month, throwing himself into the center of a wide-open competition for the team's slot receiver job.
"It's been a great experience," said Humphries, one of the smallest receivers on the Bucs' roster at 5 feet 11, 195 pounds. "Obviously coming in as a tryout guy, you're the last man on the depth chart, so you bring an edge to practice. No matter where I am on the depth chart, I'm going to work hard every day. I'm just excited to be out here."
The Bucs have drafted four receivers in the past two years, but it's Humphries — who wasn't even among three rookie receivers the Bucs initially signed after the draft — who has caught the eye of coaches, all the way to the top.
"First, I didn't know who he was. I know where he's from now," coach Lovie Smith said. "Good quickness. Smart, good instincts. I think there's about three players I've coached in my career that started from tryouts, without a contract, walking in and proving they deserve a contract, proving they belong in camp, then ending up playing. He's done everything we've asked him to do."
Clemson was Humphries' only scholarship offer out of Spartanburg, S.C., where Tigers assistant Jeff Scott had seen him for years while he recruited fellow receiver Charone Peake. Dorman High went 47-5 in Humphries' four years there, and he did so much all over the field that Scott finally offered him a scholarship.
"Every time we'd go to recruit Charone, we'd see Adam. I'd go watch Charone play basketball, and Adam was the point guard," Scott said. "After four years of watching that, I said, 'There's something special about that kid.' There were a lot of people that questioned whether he was good enough to come to Clemson, but he was a very pivotal player for us."
At Clemson, Humphries competed with three future NFL standouts: DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, who combined for 20 touchdown receptions in the NFL last season.
"Playing behind those guys, it was all of us learning from each other, going out to practice and challenging each other," said Humphries, who finished his career with 127 catches for 1,097 yards and three touchdowns, adding a 72-yard touchdown on a punt return against Louisville last year.
"Playing with those guys really helped me become who I am today."
Humphries played in 53 games, a record for a Clemson receiver and a testament to his toughness and durability.
"That says a lot about him," Scott said. "Adam is a very tough kid. He can do so many different things. Very smart, great instincts, great balance, really good hands. Understands the game inside and out; a master of details when it comes to the fundamentals of the position.
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"So many times you graded the game tape, added it all up, and there were no minuses (for Humphries). I didn't believe anybody could have 100 percent, so I'd go back and watch again to try to find somewhere to take off a point. He was that guy."
At Thursday's final Bucs voluntary practice, Humphries showed a penchant for catching balls across the middle, which will be tougher in full pads and full contact this summer. Scott taught him at Clemson that it hurts a lot worse when you drop the ball and get hit than when you catch the ball and get hit, and he's eager to find that out at the NFL level.
"I think the most important thing for me is consistency," Humphries said. "To make it in the league, you have to be consistent, always in the right place at the right time. Just knowing the offense has been key for me, understanding all the plays and the routes. That's really what I have to do to win that job."