At this time of year, every NFL team is going to say every positive thing about every single selection from the 2021 NFL Draft. It makes sense, given that every player likely brings something to the table that excited the franchise, and they did select each prospect for a reason. But some draft picks are such a perfect marriage of player and need that the fit just feels obvious—as if it was meant to be.
For the Chiefs, no single selection better exemplifies this than the second round choice of Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey. The Chiefs have been lacking a high ceiling performer at the position ever since Mitch Morse left in free agency three years ago, and their attempts to fill the starting center slot on the roster have featured one stopgap solution after another.
Clearly the Chiefs have been fine with that level of investment, given their consecutive Super Bowl appearances, but Humphrey has a clear path to a long-term starting role even as a rookie. This spring, Austin Reiter has been replaced by Austin Blythe, but the expectations of the latest Austin over the former namesake is likely the same—and the proof is in the pudding, as they say, in the contract terms of a single year at a tick under $1 million.
We recently spoke with Creed Humphrey’s offensive coordinator from Oklahoma.
We’re not the only ones who believe Creed Humphrey has a very real shot at being a starting NFL center very soon. We recently spoke with Bill Bedenbaugh, the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at the University of Oklahoma, to hear more about his perspective on Humphrey and what he brings to the table. Perhaps the best part of their story is that Coach Bedenbaugh admits he almost ruined the whole thing for everyone by not offering a scholarship to Humphrey in the first place.
You’re into spring football and having to replace some key departing players like Creed. That’s gotta be tough.
It’s never easy. You’re replacing a guy who is obviously a really, really good player and a guy who’s been a leader. That’s the tough thing. I can’t tell you how every offense is, but the center for us controls really everything. He’s really the most important player on this offense, because he gets everybody going in the right direction. He makes every call, run and pass. So from that standpoint, it makes it a bit more difficult because you had a guy there for three years you didn’t have to really worry about.
But I feel good about the guys we have competing for that spot. They did a really good job this spring. They’ve got a ways to go, but it’s never easy replacing a guy like Creed. But at a place like this you also have good players. You gotta continue to move forward. Hell I wish he was back, but he’s in a good spot for him. Also, he’s gotta leave sometime. You can’t keep him forever. [Laughs]
Do you feel like a proud father when the draft produces results like this?
It is, but it’s more about being so happy for them. You get to see a guy live out a lifelong dream. And, hey, I don’t know if he could have ended up at a better position. They’ve got a great head coach, great o-line coach. They’ve played in back-to-back Super Bowls. I don’t know if he could have went in a better spot. He’s gonna come in there and compete and work his butt off. Like I told everybody, I think he’s gonna be a really, really good player for a long time. So I’m just really happy for him and his family.
Were you surprised or not by how things went for him?
You never ever know. The consensus was second round. I’m biased and I haven’t seen everybody in the country, but I think he’s a first-round player. But he’s also a center, you know? They didn’t take one in the first round. Generally I think there’s one or maybe two in the first couple rounds. I think they took three this year. I thought he’d go a little bit higher, but like I told him, you can’t worry about that.
He’s in a great position. It’s like Orlando Brown four years ago or whenever, he didn’t test very good and dropped to the third round, but he went to the best place he could possibly go to at that point. Everybody wants to get drafted as high as possible. I get it. I understand it. But there are 32 first round picks. That’s it. Even if you’re a free agent, if you get a chance and a team wants you, you gotta go take advantage of it which I know Creed will.
Did you have indication the Chiefs were in on him?
I talked to every scout as they came through here, but I never talked to the o-line coach or the head coach. I talked to his agent. He had some indications. I wanna say there were five or six teams who really liked him and they were one of them. I did think, when it got to that point at No. 58 and they had the 63rd pick I think or whatever it was, he would be one of those picks. They obviously got great value. He went to a great place, so it worked out for everybody.
What words did you have for Creed before and after the draft?
There was just a bunch through the whole process. As he was training, I was telling him what people were telling me. I told him “good luck” and “don’t stress over it,” which I know is hard to do. But I told him it would all work out, that he’d get drafted and go on to have a long career.
It’s just a great situation for him. I know I keep saying that, but he’s five hours from home. His family can see him. He’s in a great organization with a chance to win Super Bowls. He was here playing big games with a chance to win a national championship.
So it all worked out great, and I know he’s fired up. I talked to him afterward and he was as excited as I’ve ever seen him. He’s kind of like me, even-keeled, but he was fired up when that happened. I know he’s going to put the work in. He’s a great kid. He’s smart as heck. He’s got every trait that you want, so I think it’s a really great match.
What’s the growth curve ahead for Creed in particular?
I think with any offensive lineman, it’s about getting in there and learning. The good thing about here is that I watch a lot of NFL tape. I’ve studied every team but a lot of the Chiefs just because they’re so good on offense. I think he’s a really good fit. They do a lot of the stuff we do—inside/outside zone, run some gap schemes, drop back protection, the RPO stuff, some play action. So it’s just getting in there and learning what the o-line coach is going to teach them technically and the fundamentals he expects, the plays.
He’s fortunate. He’s played against some really good players. He’s competed against some really good d-linemen here every day at Oklahoma. In practice, we’ve got four guys who are probably going to be NFL guys next year on our d-line, so he’s played against them and practiced against them. But it’s just a different jump. That’s the biggest thing to get used to. I know they’ve got a really good d-tackle there in [Chris] Jones.
So it’s just getting used to that speed, that level. Y’know, they’re grown men and they’ve played there for a while, so it’s just learning the league, the players you’re going against, the system you’re in, what you’re o-line coach wants. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around, so I think the learning curve isn’t very high.
If I ask about a favorite story involving Creed, does one come to mind?
There are some I can’t tell. [Laughs] But really the best one… he’s from right down the road. We were recruiting him as a sophomore and I was lukewarm on him coming out. We didn’t offer him, but he got a bunch of other offers. He came down here and we didn’t offer and I could tell he was pissed off. Went to see him in spring ball going into his senior year and I’m watching his practice with a bunch of other teams there. I thought, ‘I really screwed this deal!’
We offered, but I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t offer this guy early.’ He grew up an Oklahoma fan. His brother goes here. So this is April and a couple months later he commits to Texas A&M. I’m so mad and I come in and talk to Coach Riley and I’m like, ‘Creed just committed today. Watch. He’s gonna call me back in about a month and he’s gonna want to come here. I can’t wait to tell him that we’re not gonna take him.’ That’s just having pride.
Literally a month later, he calls me back and says, ‘Hey coach, I think I want to come to Oklahoma.’ It took me a half second to say, ‘Yes, we need you hear.’ I almost screwed the whole thing up. I mean, he was a young player and a little stiff, but he was growing into his body. Fortunately, I finally came to my senses so it all worked out.