There’s a lot going on with D.J. Humphries’ gut.
The former Florida left tackle and Charlotte native has added more than 60 pounds since he last played for Mallard Creek in 2011. And within that 307-pound gut, something told him he should leave college early and declare for the NFL draft despite experts’ objections.
The NFL draft advisory board, which gives out grades of first round, second round or stay in school, told Humphries, 21, that he should return to Florida for his senior season.
He didn’t take the advice.
“I took it as a challenge almost,” Humphries said Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium “They told me I should come back so I’m going to show them why I should come out.”
That decision may pay off for Humphries, who’s now in the mix as a first-round selection in the 2015 NFL draft.
Humphries blends his size with unique athleticism that NFL teams will certainly covet. He’s had the athleticism since he was a high schooler in Charlotte, but he needed to get the size.
He arrived atFlorida from Mallard Creek at 245 pounds and the best offensive lineman prospect in the country. He was as light as 282 pounds last season and as heavy as 295. But that’s not enough to be a tackle in the NFL.
So Humphries ate healthy and often, and Wednesday, his 307-pound check-in weight, on a 6-foot-5 frame, satisfied NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah enough to make Humphries his top tackle in the draft class.
“Since the last (NFL.com Top 50) rankings came out, I had a chance to watch Humphries and he’s vaulted up into the top 20 of these rankings,” Jeremiah wrote. “Humphries is a prospect I really like on tape, and the buzz on him is starting to build around the league.”
As Humphries faced first-round defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. each day at practice and the SEC’s best on Saturdays, he had his pro aspirations in the back of his mind. But he also had to make sure he was healthy. He missed seven games in his final two seasons with a sprained MCL and a high ankle sprain.
“I was trying to focus on the season,” Humphries said. “My dad always told me you take care of this level and the next level will take care of itself. I was just trying to keep it in the back of my mind and not think about it too much.”
He says he knows he needs to work on his run blocking. His overall consistency is another fault. But those things won’t be on display this week in Indianapolis.
Humphries will have to show during Friday’s workouts that he’s just as athletic at more than 300 pounds as he was at a lower weight at Florida.
“The main part for me at the combine is my weight,” Humphries said. “I want to let the world see that I can play at 300-plus because I didn’t in college. I have to let the world know.”
Along with his weight, Humphries also has good arm length at 335/8 inches. It should be enough for NFL teams to view him only as a tackle option rather than a player who would slide inside to guard.
Even with his newfound celebrity, Humphries keeps tabs on his hometown and his high school. He watched from afar as the Mavericks won back-to-back N.C. 4AA titles in 2013 and 2014.
“That’s all we fought for when I was there and they were able to get it done. I feel like a proud big brother to those guys,” Humphries said. “I’m so happy for them. Coach (Mike) Palmieri has done a great job with that program. He’s putting out a list of D-1 athletes every year and it shows.”
Those teammates and others have already started asking Humphries about his chances with the Panthers. Carolina could target a tackle with the 25th pick in April’s draft. Perhaps a homecoming could be in the works.
“All my Charlotte friends just want me to go to the Panthers so bad,” Humphries said. “Whoever’s ready to take me, I’m ready to ride. But that would be pretty cool to go back home to Charlotte.”
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9