CLEMSON — It’s never easy seeing a teammate go down with an injury. It’s even harder when those teammates have shared blood, sweat and tears in locker rooms going back to high school.
Adam Humphries has had to swallow the brutal news twice in a month. Two of his high school buddies and Clemson teammates have been lost to injuries this season. And one of them can’t say ‘wait till next year.’
Humphries is stepping up at just the right time for the third-ranked Tigers, who take on No. 5 Florida State on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. The 5-11, 190-pound junior from Spartanburg has 266 receiving yards in his last three games. For comparison, he had 280 yards his entire sophomore year in 2012.
His production is bittersweet. It comes at the expense of longtime pal Charone Peake, lost for the season with an ACL tear. Peake had knee surgery Friday to begin the rehabilitation process for 2014.
At least Peake can come back next season. Peake’s and Humphries’ Dorman High School teammate one year younger, offensive lineman Patrick DeStefano, will no longer play football because of chronic stingers in his neck.
“One of the toughest guys I know,” Humphries said Monday. “Man, if you see him out on the street, you’re like, that’s rare. He’s always in the weight room, at least 2-3 times a day. As players, we look at him like, man, how’d he do that?
“I’m sure those stingers weren’t anything to him. I’m sure the neck issue, if the doctors hadn’t told him that’s a serious problem, he’d probably be out there playing again.”
That’s two buddies Humphries has had since his teenage years who are watching from the sideline as Humphries become a vital part of Clemson’s offense.
“Charone was really tough, specifically for me, for the wide receiver group, and playing with him for a really, really long time,” Humphries said. “But Patrick was a big shock for me, and the team. We weren’t sure what his issues were and how serious they were.”
Last week, when a mutual decision between himself, his family and team doctors had been made, DeStefano addressed the entire team to break the news.
“For him to stand up in front of the team and tell us he’s done for his life, we know how that feels,” Humphries said. “We put ourselves in that situation and we know that’d be terrible. So that’s really tough to do that.
“I hate that for him. But whatever he does in life, he’s going to be extremely successful. He’s a hard worker and very smart guy.”
Humphries is feeling more comfortable within the offense after beginning the season as a versatile backup at all three wide receiver positions in Clemson’s system. With Peake down, Humphries has settled into the ‘5’ role as an intermediate route-runner, accompanying Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant.
“I’m feeling a lot more in rhythm, getting a lot more chemistry with Tajh (Boyd),” Humphries said. “I’m not having to move around to different spots, just getting timing down at one position and getting a lot of reps there.”
Humphries had two touchdown receptions at Syracuse Oct. 5, and hauled in nine catches Oct. 12, snagging a couple of career highs in consecutive weeks. His 24 catches and 319 yards on the season each trail Watkins for second-most on the Tigers.
“He just comes to work, punches a time clock, does his thing and comes and shows up the next day,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “Adam has been a very consistent player for us. Doesn’t matter where Adam is, we can move him around and he does his job. Very dependable.”