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Stan Humphries’ journey from Super Bowl QB to high school basketball coach

Only a few months after a series of concussions prematurely ended his NFL career, Stan Humphries came to the conclusion that he wasn’t cut out for retirement. 

The quarterback who led the San Diego Chargers to the 1995 Super Bowl felt isolated without the camaraderie of a team sport, adrift without the structure of a daily schedule, empty without a competitive outlet.  

“Here I was 32, 33 years old playing golf every day and thinking there has got to be more to life than this,” Humphries explained to Yahoo Sports. “Eventually, I realized I needed something to fill the void, something that gave me a purpose and allowed me to give back.”

At first, Humphries agreed to become quarterbacks coach at his alma mater Louisiana-Monroe. He enjoyed it, but it wasn’t his passion. He also dabbled in broadcasting as a TV analyst. It was fine, but it wasn’t the answer either.   

The second career that ultimately provided Humphries the fulfillment he craved often catches strangers by surprise. Humphries is surely the only former Super Bowl quarterback coaching high school girls basketball in Louisiana. 

Twenty-five years after his Chargers lost Super Bowl XXIX to San Francisco, Humphries is now leading another team with championship aspirations. Ouachita Christian’s girls basketball team is 26-0 and favored to win a state title in Louisiana’s second-lowest enrollment division, no small feat considering the Eagles won only five games the season before Humphries arrived.

When Humphries became Ouachita Christian’s head coach in 2017, he overhauled the program by emphasizing continuity between the middle school and high school teams, instilling a culture of effort and accountability and introducing NFL-style scouting and film study.

Seldom does Ouachita Christian face an opponent that Humphries has not scouted in person. In fact, it’s common for him and his wife to hop in the car on a weekday afternoon and drive three or four hours to Baton Rouge or New Orleans just to scout a team Ouachita Christian might face in the playoffs later this season.

“These girls are what make him get up and go every day,” said Connie Humphries, Stan’s wife of 32 years. “He needs them as much as they need him.” 

Stan Humphries was San Diego's starting QB in Super Bowl XXIX. San Francisco won the game, 49-26. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Why basketball?

To understand why coaching basketball provides Humphries so much joy, consider his life-long passion for the sport. He insists that he actually preferred basketball to football as a decorated multisport athlete at Southwood High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

When it was time for Humphries to decide which sport to pursue in college, he made a business decision. He correctly assessed that a laser-armed 6-foot-3 quarterback with a scholarship offer from LSU had more pro potential than a modestly talented 6-foot-3 point guard who had drawn interest from only Division II and III basketball programs.

“Really and truly, basketball was my first love, but it wasn’t a hard decision,” Humphries said. “I knew I had a better chance of playing football at the college level or higher, so I put basketball on the back burner for awhile.” 

Basketball remained a hobby for Humphries even as he quarterbacked his alma mater to the 1987 Division I-AA national championship and carved out a decade-long NFL career with the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers. One of his favorite ways to stay in shape during the offseason was by playing in pickup games or moonlighting with independent travel teams.

The desire to begin coaching basketball first struck Humphries when his two preteen daughters started to show interest in the sport. Humphries resigned as offensive coordinator at ULM in December 2001 and volunteered to serve as an assistant football coach and girl’s basketball coach at the Monroe, Louisiana, private school where his daughters attended.  

By the time his eldest daughter Brooke graduated from Ouachita Christian in 2008, Humphries had come to believe that coaching basketball was his calling. He coached younger daughter Chelsea for the next three years at St. Mary’s High School in Natchitoches before serving as an assistant coach for the next five years at West Monroe High School and at his alma mater ULM. 

“I loved my experience at ULM, but it taught me that I enjoy more catching kids when they’re 14, 15 years old,” Humphries said. “I like being able to teach them whatever I can, whether it’s basketball or life experiences that I’ve had that maybe can help them in the future.”

Under Stan Humphries, Ouachita Christian is 26-0 this season, with their sites set on a state championship. (Courtesy of Sarah and Brad Sanson)

NFL-like preparation

When Humphries began looking for head coaching opportunities at nearby high schools after he stepped down at ULM, he reached out to old friends at the campus where he got his start. The timing was perfect with Ouachita Christian searching for a new coach to revive its floundering girl’s basketball program. 

Increased collaboration with the middle-school coaches was the first change Humphries made in 2017 after landing the Ouachita Christian job. He outlined the skills and terminology that he wanted the middle-school players to learn to ease their transition once they began playing for him in high school. 

“That has made a huge difference,” said Ouachita Christian headmaster Bobby Stokes, who also serves as an assistant coach to Humphries. “Before that, we had just rotated coaches in there and there was no continuity or skill development.”

Since Humphries encourages his players to push the ball and take the first available open shot and often deploys a full-court press from the opening tip-off until the final buzzer, it was critical for him to emphasize conditioning and to develop depth. Twice as many girls came out to play for Humphries this season as the year he arrived, a reflection of his success and his patient, upbeat disposition. 

“In the almost 20 years I’ve known him, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him yell at a kid,” Stokes said. “If one of our guards makes a mistake, he’ll call her name and every other guard’s name and say, ‘This is what I want you guys to do.’ That way nobody ever feels like he’s picking on them.”

Maybe Humphries’ greatest strength is that he prepares for opponents as meticulously as he once did in the NFL. The former Chargers quarterback was famous for studying film of upcoming opponents day and night in search of tendencies that could give him an edge, a quality he now uses to seek out information that can help his basketball players.

Humphries has already studied the schedules of each of Ouachita Christian’s potential playoff opponents and prepared a list of which teams he’ll go see the next few weeks. Last February, two possible opponents played at the same time, so Humphries scouted one himself and sent Connie to monitor the other. 

When Humphries watches a future opponent on film or in person, he’ll scribble notes on which players can’t be left alone behind the arc, which are only threats to drive to the hoop and which are tenacious rebounders. He’ll also take note of the signal or command an opposing coach uses to call for a particular set play or defensive scheme. 

“He’ll rewind the video with the audio up high so he can listen for vocal commands and figure out the verbiage,” said West Monroe girls basketball coach John Green, a longtime friend of Humphries. “You almost have to hide your hand signals when you’re coaching against him, or he’ll be calling your plays out and reminding his kids what’s going on.”  

By game night, Ouachita Christian players often know the opposing coach’s set plays and personnel as well as the other team does. In a previous game this season, one of Humphries’ players actually noticed that the opposing center was in the wrong spot for the play that was called and told her to move to the low post.

“I have folders on every team we play with all their calls,” Humphries said. “Other coaches are probably mad at me, but I feel it’s my job as a coach to do whatever I can for my kids to enable them to have success.” 

Judging by Ouachita Christian’s rapid ascent under Humphries, it’s safe to say his approach has proven effective. 

In Humphries’ second season at the school, Ouachita Christian matched its deepest ever playoff run with a state quarterfinal upset of rival Cedar Creek. That night, Humphries told the Ouachita Citizen that seeing the joy on the faces of his players was his favorite sports moment — yes, even better than quarterbacking the Chargers to their lone Super Bowl appearance. 

If Ouachita Christian makes another memorable playoff run this season, the Eagles will have to handle the pressure of being the favorite. Humphries has challenged his team by scheduling opponents from higher-enrollment divisions this season and has spoken openly of taking aim at the school’s first state championship. 

With Humphries now a quarter century removed from Super Bowl XXIX and more than 22 years removed from his last NFL snap, his players are only vaguely aware of his former life. Not only does he seldom bring up his accomplishments as a quarterback unless he’s asked about them, he also never acts like any task is beneath him.

“Last year, I needed someone to take lunch money for our high school and middle school kids, and Stan volunteered,” Stokes recalled. “I said to my wife, ‘Did you ever think Stan Humphries would be taking lunch money at our school?’ These kids have no idea who he was.” 

Every once in awhile, a stranger will recognize Humphries, usually an opposing parent or coach. Inevitably, the first question they ask him is always the same: Why is a former NFL quarterback coaching high school girl’s basketball in Louisiana? 

“What I tell them is I love the game more than I ever loved football,” Humphries said. “When they watch me coach in practices and games and see the passion and intensity I bring to it, they see it for themselves.”

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