LAWRENCE — After watching one of his son’s best days, Jamison Humphrey knew there was one way to make it better: homemade lasagna.
The specialty was prepared in Caperton Humphrey’s Lawrence apartment, just hours after Kansas’ 56-34 loss to West Virginia two weeks ago.
Though the meal didn’t come after a win, there was still plenty for the family to celebrate after traveling from Ona, W.Va.
“He was bringing the wood that game, there’s no doubt about it,” Jamison says. “We were tickled to death.”
Just eight months after arriving on KU’s campus as a walk-on, Caperton started his first game as a Jayhawk against the flagship university in his home state. Not only that, he’d helped clear multiple lanes as a fullback during the Jayhawks’ 367-yard rushing day.
Friends back home noticed as well. Jamison and his wife, Jennifer, before meeting up with Caperton, received more than 200 texts on their phones.
“I just wanted to prove a point that I belong playing in the Big 12,” Caperton says. “Just wanted to make a name for myself and my family.”
He’s done that sooner than anyone could have anticipated.
How much of a longshot was Caperton Humphrey to make an impact on this year’s team?
Consider this: His bio in the team’s media guide is crammed on page 75 with 16 other players — a group of walk-ons that typically serve primarily as the team’s practice squad.
“When I decided to come out here, I told (my parents), ‘I’ll play. Don’t worry about it,’” Humphrey says. “’I’ll be on the field somehow, some way, and I’ll make you guys proud.’”
The sophomore hasn’t wasted any time since arriving on campus in January.
His unusual path started at Eastern Kentucky last season, as he played linebacker before deciding that Power Five football — and offense — should be in his future.
The Humphreys sent out film, and a few days later, they received a call from KU coach David Beaty. Caperton also was helped with his final decision knowing that a high school teammate, offensive lineman Lucas Jacobs, was on KU’s roster.
Caperton Humphrey went to work after that. He spent five days a week weightlifting with KU, then went to additional speed workouts on Sundays with trainer Joseph Potts in Overland Park.
In the process, Caperton brought up his weight to 220 while reducing body fat.
“He came out there to play. He didn’t come out there for a jersey,” Jamison Humphrey says. “That’s his work ethic.”
Though Caperton didn’t receive many FBS football offers out of high school — Ivy League schools, Army and Purdue showed the most interest along with Eastern Kentucky — he came to KU with a history that hinted at his athleticism. He was a two-time world champion and nine-time national champion as a youth wrestler, moving up to No. 1 in national rankings his sixth-grade year.
After committing to football in high school, Humphrey ran for 1,780 yards while playing fullback as a senior, serving as his team’s kickoff and punt returner as well.
KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham noticed that versatility right away. Humphrey shifted quickly up with the 1s and 2s in fall practices while settling into KU’s fullback/H-back role.
“There’s a lot of guys out there with measurables and stars that don’t really want to do it. So I favor guys that want to do it, that love football,” Meacham says. “He loves football.”
That’s been apparent to teammates from the start.
KU quarterback Peyton Bender says Humphrey and Hudson Hall — the team’s other fullback — have earned a nickname in meeting rooms: “The Kamikazes.”
There’s good reason for that.
“They’ve got to go in, give up their bodies and mash people,” Bender said. “It’s the dirty work, but it’s funny, because both of those guys love it. When they get a big block, they get hyped up. That’s like them scoring a touchdown.”
Humphrey — he’s named after his great-grandfather Charles Caperton Humphrey — had a few of those moments against West Virginia. On the team’s first play from scrimmage, he cleared out the left side for a Khalil Herbert 18-yard run. Later, on a third-and-goal, he collided with West Virginia linebacker Dylan Tonkery, centering him inside so that Taylor Martin could go outside for a 1-yard touchdown run.
“I just want to dominate the guy on the other side of the ball every play,” Caperton says. “I like that role of physical, mean, nasty.”
There might be more he can show as well. Meacham says Humphrey has a part in the gameplan for Saturday’s game against Texas Tech, and his ability to catch and run could force defenses to think about more than just running plays when he’s in.
“I think I’ve proved that I can play,” Humphrey says. “Obviously it doesn’t matter where you’re from. What you do on the field is going to stand out. Coaches are going to see, no matter whether you’re walk-on or scholarship.”
There’s little denying that now, with Humphrey elevating himself from roster afterthought to starter in less than a year’s time.
It all made for a happy lasagna dinner two weeks ago.
“A great weekend for us,” Jamison Humphrey says. “Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”