So who is Stan Humphries, this pup the Washington Redskins will baptize Sunday in the Valley of the Sun, this guy Coach Joe Gibbs has said will have every chance to become his permanent No. 1 quarterback over the next couple of months?

For one thing, he's a consummate jock. He was a star point guard and quarterback at Shreveport's Southwood High and had scholarship offers for both sports.

Pals say he's a better-than-average bowler and a first-rate golfer. "He hits it a ton," said friend and agent, Kevin Scanlon. "And he's very, very competitive. He wants to excel at everything and is one of those guys who believes he's not going to fail. He may do things on the field that aren't pretty. He may throw sidearm passes and scramble around, but he'll find some way to move the chains down the field."

He's not a talker and says reports of his temper have been exaggerated.

"The way I lead is by example," he said. "If guys see you doing your job . . . That's leadership to me."

Scanlon says that Humphries has two passions -- sports and his family. A former coach says that wife Connie deserves much of the credit for his success "because she helped him deal with things that he had trouble handling before they were married." The couple celebrated the birth of a daughter, Brooke Renee, this summer.

For another thing, Humphries is a long shot. That's what the 159th pick of every draft is, and in 1988, Humphries was coming out of tiny Northeast Louisiana and joining a team that already had Doug Williams, Jay Schroeder and Mark Rypien on its depth chart.

Humphries looks back at those days and laughs, remembering that he was thrilled to be going to the Redskins, especially since Gibbs was the only NFL coach who thought enough to fly to Louisiana for lunch and a one-on-one tryout.

"But I just wondered what they'd want with me," he said.

Those first days have been re-lived several times this week as Humphries has prepared for his first NFL start, Sunday in Phoenix. He has patiently taken reporters through the highlights of his 25 years, from a short and unhappy stay at Louisiana State, to an up-and-down career at Northeast Louisiana to, finally, Sunday when a lot of people will find out a lot more about him.

They will find he has traveled a tangled road, enrolling first at LSU, where a coaching change and bad grades sent him back to Shreveport.

He sat out a year, enrolled at Northeast Louisiana, sat out another year, then played behind Bubby Brister a year. He won the job his junior season, was benched for a game his senior season then came back to lead Northeast Louisiana to the NCAA Division I-AA championship.

The final was a 43-42 victory over Marshall, and Humphries threw for 436 yards and a touchdown.

He was projected as perhaps the No. 2 quarterback in the '88 draft, only behind Chris Chandler. But during the course of springtime tryouts and physicals, the Atlanta Falcons discovered his white blood-cell count was extremely high.

The Redskins joke about it now because that blood disorder became an excuse to shelve him on injured reserve his rookie season. But it was no laughing matter when it was first discovered.

"Doctors feared his blood couldn't clot," Scanlon said, "and I guarantee you it dropped him a couple of rounds in the draft. I'm not saying there weren't other factors because there were. I'm sure people were scared off by the fact that he'd played at a small school. But when he went on injured reserve, he needed the rest and had to take a blood test every week."

In what surely is the most hectic and nerve-wracking week of his life, he has remained calm, attempting to answer every question and do every interview while still preparing for the Cardinals.

Teammates have tried to relieve some of the pressure, with wide receiver Gary Clark telling reporters: "We've told him to stick with us and we'll make him a star."

But it was Gibbs who put the reality of the week in perspective when he said: "When you think about it, there's an awful lot on the line for him."

He'll have one start against the young Cardinals, then two weeks of practice before beginning a five-week stretch when the Redskins will play the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles twice each.

"You still have to look at it as a football game," Humphries said. "You have to go out and have some fun and try to win. The way I look at it is that if the team wins, I'll be out there playing football. I can't look at this as a chance to show what I can do. Getting out and playing last week helped a lot. There's definitely a different feel when you're out there and rushers are coming at you and guys are diving around you. It's faster than practice and you have to get used to it."

And: "I've been around three years and it's time for me to show what I can do."

He grew up in a middle-class part of Shreveport and by the fifth grade was the tallest member of his class -- and a quarterback. He could always throw a nice, tight spiral and had just enough cockiness that he was willing to show off his arm.

"My offensive line was shorter than me," he said.

He was encouraged to play. His dad had been a star single-wing quarterback at Louisiana Tech and was drafted by the Chicago Bears. That's as far as his NFL career got because World War II interrupted his plans for training camp.

When Stan Humphries graduated from high school, he signed with LSU. That may have been a logical choice, but, "I don't think he ever wanted to go there," said Arkansas State Coach Pat Collins, who was at Northeast Louisiana when Humphries arrived. "It was just the pressure that a Louisiana kid would feel to go there. I'm not saying it's a bad place, but it's not for everyone. I don't think he was ever 100 percent fired up about being there. Maybe he looked for reasons to leave. He didn't attend some classes and that wasn't like him. He's an awfully bright guy."

Humphries will say only that it wasn't right for him. "There were political things," he said. "Some guys were there just because their dads had been there. It was weird and I just didn't enjoy it."

He landed at Northeast Louisiana, which had been one of his final choices anyway. He arrived to find Brister and a pro-style offense "that's a lot like the one we run now."

He also found Roger Carr, a former NFL wide receiver who also grew up in Shreveport. Humphries grew up near former NFL quarterback Joe Ferguson and the two worked out together a few summers.

"It was just a good situation for me," he said.

Collins said Humphries didn't have a smooth adjustment.

"He has really matured," he said. "He was the type that would go into a game and wasn't sure how to handle adversity. He'd throw an interception and kind of go into a shell. He tended to get excited and almost to give up. An injury might be made out to be greater than it was. It became a kind of an escape for Stan.

"I think it was just a lack of confidence, and when he got married, Connie rebuilt his confidence."

Collins said things had gone so bad that he benched Humphries four games into his senior season because "he was confused and needed to observe from the sidelines and get a perspective."

He benched Humphries for one game, alternated him for another before finally having him into his office for a meeting.

"I told him I was putting my trust and confidence in him," he said. "I wanted our players to know who to rally around. I told Stan I didn't care if you throw five interceptions, you're going to stay in. And he just got better and better. By the time he left here, he convinced me he could play in the NFL. I was coaching at Louisiana Tech when Terry Bradshaw was there and I've talked to a lot of scouts. I knew this guy had the ability. I didn't know if he was mentally tough enough. Stan convinced me he was."

By the time Gibbs went to Louisiana to see Humphries, the package was pretty much complete. Gibbs remembers seeing a guy "with an outstanding arm" and one with decent speed.

The Redskins say he's very similar to Rypien in that both have rifle arms. The difference may be that Humphries moves around a little more in the pocket and is more daring with his arm.

Redskins officials have warned against high expectations. They say that Humphries is capable of winning games, but that there are going to be some bumpy roads as well. Sunday's game will be the fourth of his NFL career.

"I think he's enjoying it," Gibbs said. "He looks like he's having fun. He's excited and I think we're all excited for him. Now, it's just a matter of him getting us down the field in the fourth quarter. This is what he has prepared for."