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As the Drake song indicates “started from the bottom, now we’re here.”
“The bottom” for former Bison football player Ramon Humber was going undrafted in 2009 and having to claw his way onto an NFL roster. Now he is “here” with a Super Bowl ring, which he won as a member of the New England Patriots this season. Defeating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 on the sport’s biggest stage, Humber became the second consecutive former North Dakota State player to be represented on a Super Bowl roster. Though Humber is a 10-year NFL veteran, he has seen the Super Bowl stage once before in 2009. Humber and his Indianapolis Colts fell to New Orleans 31-17 in that game. Now, a decade later, he was on that stage again, this time as a champion.
For Humber, it was definitely worth the wait. “I think anytime you go to the Super Bowl early on in your career and you come up short and you have a chance to go back, no matter the time or point in your career and win it, you’ll always cherish it,” Humber said. “It’s something that is special, something nobody can take from you and something that you’ve earned. That’s the most important part, to win a Super Bowl, you have to earn it and that’s something we did as a team and I’m happy about it.”
Now two weeks removed from the game, Humber says he still has not felt the victory sink in entirely. “For the most part, you know you’re a Super Bowl champion, but it still hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the time, realizing that I’m a Super Bowl champion. It still hasn’t sunk in because we haven’t gotten the hardware yet.”
Humber also struggles to describe his feelings when the clock struck zero in Atlanta. “It’s very exciting, that’s really all you can say. I can’t really describe it. It’s kind of one of those things you have to experience yourself to really understand” Humber said when describing his thoughts immediately following the game. “Just the high, it’s just ridiculous. I can’t really describe it, but it’s just an unbelievable feeling knowing that all the hard work you put in paid off. We’re world champions and nobody can take that from you, you’re ingrained in the history books forever, that’s something remarkable.”
The former Bison has seen his share of obstacles in his NFL career. One of the best linebackers in school history, Humber racked up 249 career tackles for the Bison with 23.5 of them being for a loss. Humber was also an All-Conference selection in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Despite those impressive marks, he still went undrafted in 2009, eventually getting picked up by the Indianapolis Colts. Playing in the Super Bowl as a rookie, Humber used some of his past experience this time around. However, the waiting and impatience are what stuck with him the most from 2009. “I just knew there was a lot of waiting around. Two weeks and even though it was a 6’o clock Eastern kickoff, it’s still a late game,” he said. “By the first week, you got your gameplan in, by the time you get to the destination, you’re ready to roll. Once the game time comes, it’s time to go.”
Humber broke his hand in 2010 and was eventually let go by Indianapolis. He was quickly picked up by the New Orleans Saints, playing five seasons for them. Following his time in New Orleans, Humber spent some time on the New England practice squad. While he was eventually released by the Patriots and found his way to Buffalo for two seasons, Humber made an impression in Foxborough. Mainly, on legendary head coach Bill Belichick.
“When I was with New England the first time, they let me go because of roster moves and they wanted to make a roster change. The next day I started in Buffalo. Bill [Belichick] said he wanted to bring me back but didn’t think I’d be around after a couple weeks and that I’d get grabbed up by somebody,” Humber said. “He said when the opportunity comes around, they’d love to have me back and I came through when the Bills released me, so I’m just happy and fortunate that they gave me an opportunity to come back and play for them.”
Buffalo released Humber on November 10, he was picked up by New England on November 14.
Since then, Humber has found his ideal football scenario with the Patriots. New England has established itself as the premier franchise since 2000, winning six Super Bowls and appearing in nine. Because of that championship pedigree, New England is easily the most desirable destination for any NFL player, Humber included. “It’s customary here to want to win, learn about football and the game, it’s definitely an organization you want to play for. You have to put egos aside and know your role and play your role, everybody else is going to do their part too,” he said. “Me being there previously, I knew how it was and I was comfortable with it, familiar with it, so it was nothing new to me.”
Having to wait 10 years to return to the Super Bowl can prove taxing on any player. Not making it to the game (or the playoffs) can alter a player’s confidence, no doubt. That was not the case for Humber, who saw each season as a learning opportunity and a chance to grow. “It’s not really about being back. Each year when you fall short, you have to re-group as a person and as a team. Each year is different, each team is different,” he said. “In order to go back, you have to set your standards high, set your goals high and everybody has to play their part. That is something New England does very well and I’m happy they brought me back and happy to win a Super Bowl with them.”
As noted earlier, Humber became the second consecutive former North Dakota State player to be represented on a Super Bowl-winning roster. The national exposure has put the school in the spotlight, with the eyes of the nation upon them. Humber believes football fans across the United States have had their eye on North Dakota State well before he and Carson Wentz became Super Bowl winners. “I think North Dakota State has already been out there in the eyes of the nation. It’s obvious because Division I FBS teams don’t play us anymore because of the threat of losing,” Humber said, laughing. “It’s just guys going out there and competing at NDSU. It’s a brotherhood and just wanting to compete, wanting to get better. When you get your opportunity to go to the next level, it’s just making the most of your opportunities and showcasing what NDSU can do.”
Ramon Humber has indeed been showcasing what NDSU can do and what kind of football products it can develop. Over the last 10 seasons, he has proven himself to be a valuable linebacker and special teams performer. The New England Patriots took note of that and were ready and willing to re-sign him when the time came this past November.
That is all Ramon Humber has needed, a chance. North Dakota State gave him a chance and he became one of the best linebackers in school history. Indianapolis gave him a chance in 2009 and he helped them get to a Super Bowl. New England gave him a chance this season and he won his first Super Bowl with the team.
For every chance he has been given, Ramon Humber has capitalized. His shot at winning a Super Bowl had to wait 10 years, but it was surely worth the wait for Humber. This 2018 run is a culmination of all the hard work he put in at North Dakota State and beyond. The end result was the highest prize in football.
Good things come to those who wait.