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Why I became a Miami Hurricane: Ricky Paolillo

During this series, the staff at State of the U will explain their allegiance to the ‘Canes. We’re hoping this gives readers a better understanding of our writers and our passion for what we do, blogging about the Miami Hurricanes. We would also like to encourage you to tell your own story of ‘Why you love the Hurricanes’ in the comments section below.

Sugar Bowl X Dorsey
Ken Dorsey directs the Miami Hurricanes offense against the Florida Gators in the 2001 Sugar Bowl.

My Miami Hurricanes fandom started young. My father’s an alumnus – a very passionate alumnus. On Saturdays during the fall, the Orange Bowl served as my playground. Parking in someone's backyard was a routine and we almost always scored arepas on our way into the stadium. This was my Disneyland. Excursions to the Orange Bowl to see the Hurricanes play was the only thing I wanted as a child. If that sounds strange to you, that's because it's a 'Canes thing, and you just wouldn't understand.

When you're devoted as we are, there is no offseason. Spring is a time for viewing practices and shooting the bull about future stars. This type of discussion always led to intense debates. While my father always reminisced about Jim Kelly and the Hurricanes legends of the 80s (he even wrote this article about #KellyTough on SOTU), I was fortunate enough to experience something just as great, and perhaps even greater – the early 2000s 'Canes.

We could go on and on about who's better than who or which team was the greatest, but there was always an unwritten rule that regardless of what particular team or player might be better, each were special and among the greatest in college football history.

Ballin' Boys was my jam

Two-Zero Ed Reed, Santana, Willis, Vilma, Dorsey, Buchannan, Rumph, Gore, Campbell, and that f****n' soldier – these were my big time players making big time plays in big time games.

The Orange Bowl wasn’t always packed, but it was always rocking, and there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. I remember sitting on the upper deck blistering, watching the planes fly by on a noon kickoff against Colorado (or somebody else). The ‘Canes thoroughly demolished them, and I loved every minute of it.

I remember attending the '02 spring game as a young pup. We walked around the field, chatted it up with players and coaches, and even got an autograph from Sebastian. I remember my grandfather walking up to Roscoe Parrish and turning around to say, "Look! We're the same height!"

I didn't have the heart to tell him that he never had the talent, speed, versatility, or the intestinal fortitude to take a massive lick over the middle and hang onto the ball like Roscoe did, but then again, I only know him as my grandfather, perhaps he was a scrappy 5'8" Italian speedster in his heyday.

Also, Sean Taylor’s signature is among the others (top right), and there will never be another autograph I admire and appreciate more.

Embracing the dark side

Fueling my passion for Miami Hurricanes football was my hometown of Venice, nestled on the Gulf Coast of Florida. We have great fishing, beaches, everything that makes Florida paradise. But there’s a problem – a healthy amount of Gators and Seminoles fans reside within its borders. Some of those heathens are my friends – my best friend is a ‘Nole, so is my cousin, and I have a Gator uncle – some of these people are fine, respectable members of society, and the rest can go to hell.

Just as the 'Canes were brawling with the Gators in New Orleans before the 2001 Sugar Bowl, I spent countless days throughout my childhood defending my fandom. We typically settled our differences on the football field or playing EA Sports' NCAA Football. However, as outnumbered as I was, I didn't have the time to hand every kid on the block a virtual whooping. So often we were reduced to debating, bragging about current and previous standings, and patting each other on the back about future outlooks (for sports fans, the future is always bright). Fortunately, since I share a fandom that includes several college and NFL greats, and THE GREATEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAM EVER ASSEMBLED, debating is an easy thing to do.

The past and present Hurricanes combined to make something much greater than themselves

As I gleaned information about the Hurricanes' past from my father and rode the wave of the early 2000s, I found a passion – the University of Miami. Coral Gables became the center of all my dreams. It was where I wanted to play football and where I hoped to go to school.

Joining the State of the U did wonders for me. In high school, I lost touch with those dreams, faltered, and fought from behind to graduate. Any dreams of football were gone and I was lucky to get into any college, let alone Miami.

But the State of the U brought me back into the fold. This site showed me a gift I never knew I had: I can write fairly well (well enough not to draw the ire of many of you readers, at least).

Through posting on the State of the U, I gained more confidence in myself and that translated to my schoolwork. I found a junior college to attend and things are going great, and now my dream of attending the University of Miami is alive and well again.

Fino alla fine

I'm not an alumnus. I may never even be a student. But my passion for the 'Canes plays a key role in my life. During my time at the State of the U, I've made great friends whose work has inspired my own. And for that, I'm grateful.

Go 'Canes! And to the readers, writers, and managing editors of the State of the U, thank you for giving me an outlet to write about my passion and igniting the flame to pursue greater things in life.