In the fall of my sophomore year of high school the Varsity Special Teams Coach and the man who led the J.V. squad at J.P. Stevens H.S. in Edison N.J., Coach Bill Kantra, gave me and some of my H.S. football teammates an assignment that would change my life forever (though I did not know it at the time).
In the cool autumn air of Central Jersey, Coach Kantra gathered us J.V. guys that Saturday morning after a spirited practice, and demanded we go home and do one thing,
"Watch that FSU - Miami game today..... that's real football. That's how the game is meant to be played. Fast and mean."
I went home that day, and did exactly what Coach ordered us to do.
Three hours later, I was hooked for life.
And although there were two teams on that field that day, only one caught my attention.
You can guess where I am going with this.......
A few years later and to my amazement (it still boggles my mind to this day), when I ended up on campus in Coral Gables as a student at UM, my passion for 'Canes football was no longer the #1 factor in my love of the University.
The campus was an oasis, the education was top notch, and every day was more glorious than the previous.
Sure there was homework, tests, papers, etc, but I was surrounded by a diverse collection of beautiful and intelligent people, and living in a country club atmosphere.
My love of the school had surpassed anything related to athletics, at least for the time being........
As most freshmen students do, I attended my first Miami football game that fall.
The trip to the Orange Bowl from UM included a journey on the Metro Rail as well as a bus ride, and when the day started seeing the hallowed OB live and in person was what excited me most. To me it was the Mecca of College Football (I still weep at its destruction) . The historian in me could not wait to have the opportunity to say I visited the place where National Championships, Super Bowls, and record long home winning streaks took place.
The opponent that day was only FAMU.
So the game was not that competitive.
I attended the game that day with good friend (and future SOTU writer) Josh Kaufman, and my roommate James Callan.
James was an international student from London who had never witnessed "American Football" before, either in person or on T.V..
To his credit. he picked up certain aspects of the game pretty fast.
About halfway through the third quarter "English James" as we affectionately called him, made a pretty amazing and comical observation,
"I have no idea what is going on in this game, but Ray Lewis is an amazing player."
James' observation, not to mention where I was and what I was witnessing, re-sparked a passion in me that I first discovered 3 years earlier on a fall afternoon from my parents living room in N.J.
Miami Football when played with their unique blend of swag, was and is something special to behold.......
In the second semester of freshman year, with my love of my school and the football team firmly established, a new love affair with an underdog program emerged,
I went to my first hoops game in the old Miami Arena, and witnessed UM defeat Seton Hall in a Big East Hoops contest.
The game itself was exciting and fast paced, and even in that half empty gymnasium that the Heat called home, it provided an atmosphere I was immediately drawn to. Seriously folks, if you've never been to a love college basketball game, you are missing out.
But it wasn't the game itself that led to my new found passion, one that perhaps to this day even slightly surpasses 'Canes Football.
After the game Josh and I went to the Circle K for some celebratory supplies (as much beer as we could fit in our backpacks), and ran into star PG Kevin Norris and freshman PF Tim James.
We congratulated the players, and talked shop with them for a good 15 minutes.
The interaction was exciting and rewarding and perhaps foreshadowed my future on this blog.
Both players were receptive to the questions and fanfare, likely because the Hoops program was and is (until recently maybe) under appreciated on campus and through out South Florida.
Either way, I was sold.
I would go on and attend nearly every home Hoops game in my 4 years at UM.
Miami Hurricanes Basketball had forever earned a place in my heart next to football and the University itself that day, thanks largely in part to James and Norris...............
5 years ago, Kaufman and I embarked on a project to drum up more support for the 'Canes Basketball Program.
We had no idea where it would lead.
We founded "Category 6" with the intention of being the first ever UM Hoops only website.
Of course within a few months, we expanded to cover football.
And a year into the project, we drew the attention of the fine folks at SB Nation, which is how I ended here writing on this site today.
Through this blog, and the wonders of Social Media, my love of 'Canes Athletics and the University itself has expanded to an even greater level.
Via my work here, I have discovered in the past few years that whether you attended UM or not, Miami Hurricanes supporters are more than a fan base,
We are a like a second family.
There's something unique about UM Sports that brings us together arguably better than any group of people that follow any other team.
Maybe it's the swag.
Either way, there is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for the opportunity to cover UM.
I am equally appreciative that because of an assignment from a wily old Special Teams Coach many years ago, and events that followed, I can call myself a Miami Hurricane.
I hope the readers here enjoy reading my experiences as much as I have enjoyed sharing them.
Feel free to share yours' below.