Cal Poly Football captain and senior defensive back Kitu Humphrey was born and raised in South-Central Los Angeles, California. Football is one of Humphrey’s biggest passions. However, the game runs deeper for Humphrey, who says football saved his life.

“Some of the people that I was hanging around with on a daily basis took different routes and made some bad decisions that landed them in other places, at times when I was literally doing a football workout,” Humphrey said.

Video by Kelly Trinh

Growing up in South Central L.A. is something that Humphrey takes pride in. However, he also recognized the struggles it presented at the same time. Humphrey was a first-hand witness to people around him falling victim to the wrong path, including members of his own family. 

“For me it was just, anything that said I was going to get out of the situation that I was in at home, I was going to take it,” Humphrey said.

After excelling at Long Beach Polytechnic High School athletically and academically, Humphrey accepted an offer from Cal Poly. 

“Right before signing day, Cal Poly reached out with an offer… It’s probably one of my greatest accomplishments, being part of this football team” Humphrey said. “I’m from South-Central L.A., and I’m here.”

Matt Shotwell and Kitu Humphrey go in for a tackle during Cal Poly’s game against Montana State on Oct. 5. Kyle Calzia | Mustang News
Matt Shotwell and Kitu Humphrey go in for a tackle during Cal Poly’s game against Montana State on Oct. 5. Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

Football offered Humphrey an alternative to the life he was familiar with in his hometown, and his commitment to the sport is now paying off.

As a four-year starter and two-time captain for Cal Poly’s defense, Humphrey has played a major role during his career at Cal Poly. He is second on the team in total tackles (69) in his final season with the Mustangs. Humphrey added an interception and a sack as well, tying for first and second on the team, respectively. 

Humphrey’s impact stretches beyond on-the-field production, however. His coaches and teammates point specifically to his work ethic, which sets an example for the younger players on the team. 

“He is determined to be the very best he can be in everything that he does,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “In the weight room, his work ethic, how he studies the game… all those things are extremely important to him and he’s achieved all of them at a very high level.”

“He works his butt off in the weight room when we’re training in the offseason,”  junior linebacker Matt Shotwell said. “‘Just keep grinding.’ That’s what he always says.” 

Football was always a game that Humphrey loved due to his physicality and aggression, but it has also presented life lessons that he uses today.

“You mess up on the field, you get beat all the time, and I’m never down upon myself in those situations. I think it’s because of life.” Humphrey said. “I learned those lessons early on in life, that nothing is the end even when it might seem it.”

Humphrey’s journey to where he is now was not all manufactured by football, however. Multiple people helped him along the way, none of which were a bigger influence than his father.

Humphrey pictured with members of his family on Senior Night. Humphrey’s father’s shirt reads, “Behind every football player who believes in himself is a football Dad who believed in him first.” Kyle Calzia | Mustang News
Humphrey pictured with members of his family on Senior Night. Humphrey’s father’s shirt reads, “Behind every football player who believes in himself is a football Dad who believed in him first.” Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

“I think he’s the best dad ever, giving what he had and what he did for me and my siblings… I don’t think I would be here without him at all,” Humphrey said. “There’s a lot of people throughout this journey that have done some great things for me.”

Football, along with positive influences like his father, created an environment where Humphrey could succeed. Since then, he’s been doing just that. Now, Humphrey’s focus is on creating the best future for himself.

“I always talk to my friends and say I’m living my second life,” Humphrey said. “My first life, it was more of a struggle. It was less happiness everyday and more, ‘How am I going to get out of this?’ Now that I’m here, it’s more like, ‘I feel good about what the future holds,’” Humphrey said.

There is one game left in Humphrey’s final season as he prepares to leave his legacy behind with the Mustangs’ football program. After Humphrey graduates, he wants to be remembered for making the best out of life.

“I would like the story to be told as, ‘The guy who did his best to do it right,’” Humphrey said. “I tried to show that people from where I’m from should get more opportunities like this. Give them that opportunity and they can excel or do their best to excel. That’s how I want the story to be told.”

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