Brandon Laury and Paul Humphrey met through their encounters on the Little Loop football field.
When the two running backs wound up playing at Bishop Timon-St. Jude, an initial friendship born from competition evolved to the point where Laury considered Humphrey as one of his best pals.
Laury isn’t the only Tiger who considered Humphrey as a bestie, but Laury is next in line to honor his memory.
Laury will wear Humphrey’s No. 2 during what figures to be an emotional home opener for Timon at 7 p.m. Friday against Akron at Tifft Farm in South Buffalo.
Humphrey, 17, was killed in a shooting July 13 in the city's Schiller Park neighborhood. No one has been charged for the crime.
“First and foremost, it’s an honor to me and the team to be able wear his number,” said Laury, who considered himself as Humphrey's "big brother." “We’re going to grind, act like it’s nothing. Don’t play emotional. Play strong. … We’ve got to work for him because he can’t do anything here. We have to do it for him.”
Humphrey’s parents and siblings will participate in the pregame coin toss Friday and a moment of silence is planned before kickoff.
Humphrey, who would have been a junior, touched many lives. He was a high-energy kid who always smiled. He loved joking with folks, including teammates in the huddle, but also was a good student, said Joe Licata, Timon's coach and athletic director.
Although Humphrey’s tragic death happened two months ago, Laury said it seemed like it happened yesterday.
He remembers going to Erie County Medical Center shortly after hearing about the shooting only to be informed of Humphrey’s death by Humphrey's father, also named Paul.
Laury carries a brave face around teammates, but in private moments, he conceded that the tears start flowing when he thinks of Humphrey.
“I cry some days, but I’m not going to cry in front of my team. Once I’m down, everybody else is going to be down, so I have to be up,” Laury said.
How beloved was Humphrey by his extended Timon and Western New York football families?
More than 300 people showed up at a memorial for Humphrey two days after the shooting.
Hours after the incident, Licata texted a few of his players to let them know if they needed to talk about the situation he’d be at the school’s gym. Instead of a few, 150 showed up.
The football team is doing plenty to keep Humphrey’s memory alive.
Timon has stitched the letters "P" and "H" on the front of its jerseys. The No. 2 is on the side of Tigers’ helmets. The team also has a banner with Paul Humphrey's name and picture along with the word "2gether." The Tigers also are selling T-shirts with the word 2gether on them with the proceeds being donated to the family.
Then there’s the rotating honor of being able to wear No. 2 in a game. It’s a distinction players have to earn through their work in practice leading up to each game. Even linemen are eligible and wear No. 2 on game days, as the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association’s coaches and area football officials agreed to letting a lineman wear a receiving-eligible number without needing to report before each snap.
The honor of wearing No. 2 was bestowed on Humphrey’s two best friends and backfield mates Woodrow Corker and Laury for the first two games.
Corker wore No. 2 during the Tigers’ season-opening loss at Iroquois, 47-18.
“Being the first one picked was an honor,” Corker said. “Wearing his number was just very emotional. ...
“Everything has to be good and everything I do has to be for him."
Timon had an early lead but couldn’t close out the Chiefs. The Tigers wanted to win it for Humphrey but emotions might have gotten the best of them at times.
“We got really high when we made good plays, and then we got really low when we made bad plays,” Licata said. “I think that had to do with the situation. … We’re finding a way to get through it together, just leaning on each other and using football as a crutch.”
Friday night also figures to be quite the emotional situation. How will the Tigers deal with it?
“It’s bigger than football,” Licata said. “I got a text from at least 25 Western New York coaches offering their support. St. Joe’s Derek Landri showed up at the wake. Football is family. Last week, Iroquois put a No. 2 on the 40-yard line which was awesome. Football is more than a game.”
“We’re just trying to carry out his legacy,” Laury said. “As long as we’re alive, he’s never going to die.”
Week two's top games
Kenmore West at McKinley (Dingboom Field at Riverside), 7 p.m. Friday. An early match between unbeaten Class A-1 teams as McKinley looks to build on last week's road win at Williamsville North. Ken West hits the road off a surprising win against Section VI Class A runner-up West Seneca West as the Blue Devils became just the second team in 26 games to defeat WSW.
Sweet Home at West Seneca East, 7 p.m. Friday. Can Sweet Home spoil a foe's home opener for the second consecutive week? The Panthers earned their first win since 2017 by pulling away at Williamsville South last Friday. The reigning state runner-up Trojans were tested early but scored 22 straight points to pull away from host Amherst, 36-20. WSE's signature ground-and-pound attack was led by Devare Mathis' 195 yards rushing.
Lewiston-Porter at Cheektowaga, 7 p.m. Friday. The Lancers look to remain unbeaten after opening with a 28-0 win against Medina. Two-time defending Section VI Class B champion Cheektowaga looks to avoid falling to 0-2 after dropping its opener to nonleague visitor Western New York Maritime/Health Sciences in overtime.
Bennett at St. Joe's, 1 p.m. Saturday. This is the only time a Section VI Class AA school and a Monsignor Martin large school tangle this season. Last year, St. Joe's defeated the Tigers, 29-14, to open the season. The Section VI runner-up is paced by returning first team All-Western New York running back D'Jae Perry, who rushed for 190 yards and two scores in last week's win against Clarence. The Marauders are coming off a loss to Pennsylvania power McDowell, a contest in which sophomore Callum Wither threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns.
Clymer/Sherman/Panama at Silver Creek/Forestville, 7 p.m. Saturday. Defending state Class D champions play their second consecutive nonleaguer on the road. CSP blanked Section V host Geneseo, 28-0, last week. Silver Creek is a Class C-sized school.
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