By Rubin E. Grant
As a child, Breona Humphrey didn’t realize her dad was famous, but her friends certainly did.
“He was never one to brag,” Breona said of her dad, football star Bobby Humphrey. “We saw the pictures, but we never considered the magnitude of how great he was and that he was a celebrity.
“When our friends came over and saw him, they would go crazy, and we were like, ‘What in the world?’ He was just dad to us. We slowly came to realize that our dad was a big deal,” Breona said, reflecting on her father’s legacy as Father’s Day approaches.
Breona is the second of Bobby and Barbara Humphrey’s five children. Maudrecus, the oldest, was the first to discover his dad’s celebrity.
When Maudrecus was in the fourth grade, Bobby visited his school for lunch one day. After school, Maudrecus was bursting with excitement.
“Maudrecus came home and was really excited,” Barbara recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, what happened?’ And he said, ‘All the teachers and the lunchroom ladies wanted daddy’s autograph like he was famous.’”
Humphrey did, indeed, make a name for himself on the football field as a running back at Glenn High School in Birmingham in the early 1980s, as a two-time All-American at the University of Alabama and in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. He played in the 1990 Super Bowl with the Broncos.
But his children had no clue. “When he left the NFL, he totally got away from football,” Barbara said. “They didn’t even know he played.”
Living in the Highland Crest community in Hoover, the Humphreys wanted to be like any other suburban couple raising a family. Bobby had a few business endeavors, and he now is vice president of business development at Bryant Bank. Barbara, a former track star at Jackson-Olin High School and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, works for Renaissance Man Ford Services, owned by Herschel Walker, and serves on the University of Alabama System board of trustees.
Given their athletic background, it wasn’t a surprise that their five children became athletes, beginning with Maudrecus and Breona, then followed by Marlon, Brittley and Marion. Each of them became star athletes at Hoover High School, making names for themselves in football, basketball and track. All but Breona were recognized as Birmingham Kiwanis Club Athletes of the Year while at Hoover.
“Both of our parents were humble about who they were,” Breona said. “They never pushed us into sports. We used to hear stories about how they would get us up at 6 in the morning and make us work out, but that never happened. We all had a passion for athletics and we wanted to be successful.”
Bobby more or less let them gravitate into sports on their own.
“I didn’t know who was going to play sports,” he said. “But once they started, I realized they had skills and ability. They had their mom’s speed and my go-get-it attitude.”
Maudrecus, a receiver, and Marlon, a defensive back, became star football players for the Bucs. Maudrecus went to Arkansas, then transferred to UAB. He’s now 26, lives in Birmingham and is about to receive his real estate license.
Marlon, 21, followed in his dad’s footsteps and went to Alabama, and now he is about enter his second season in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.
Maudrecus, not his dad, actually influenced Marlon’s decision to play football.
“It’s something I wanted to do,” Marlon said. “My brother played before me, so it was just the trickle-down effect.”
Marlon also made the decision to go to Alabama without much prodding from his dad.
“He said he wouldn’t try to persuade me one way or another,” Marlon said. “He left the decision up to me. Looking back, after going to Alabama, I wanted to do better than the legacy he made. And I wore the same jersey number (26) because he was my idol.”
Breona, 23, ran track at UAB and now lives in Los Angeles, pursuing an acting career. Brittley, 20, was a 12-time Alabama state champion during her illustrious track career at Hoover and just finished her sophomore year on the LSU track team.
Marion, 18, just graduated from Hoover in May after starring in basketball and track. He plans to attend Taylor Made Prep Academy in Pensacola, Florida, before deciding on a college.
End of an Era
With Marion’s graduation, the Humphrey athletic train has made its last run at Hoover, though it was a bittersweet moment for Bobby.
“We were excited about him being the last one,” Bobby said. “It was good to see him walk across that stage and get his diploma, but it’s sad that there are no more Humphreys playing sports at Hoover High School.”
Hoover track coach Devon Hind had the privilege of coaching each of the Humphrey children. Bobby and Barbara let him do just that, even though both of them had coaching experience, Bobby with the Birmingham Steeldogs in arena football and Barbara with Speed City Summer Track Club, which she founded, and as track coach at Simmons Middle School.
“Their parents couldn’t have been better,” Hind said. “They both took a hands-off approach and trusted me. They were very supportive. They were model parents.
“The only problem is they stopped at five (children),” he added with a hearty laugh. “They have been great to have as part of our program.”
Bobby hasn’t had time to reflect on the Humphrey legacy at Hoover. He’s been too busy keeping up with his children, who are still competing.
On their 28th wedding anniversary, on June 2, Bobby and Barbara were at an elite track meet in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On Father’s Day, they will be at a track meet in Oxford.
“I hadn’t had a chance to relax and reminisce because they’re all still doing stuff with Brittley at LSU and Marlon in the NFL, and Marion trying to decide what he wants to do,” Bobby said. “I enjoyed watching them at Hoover. I enjoyed the whole experience.”