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Why I Became A Miami Hurricane: Cam Underwood

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Closing out the Why I Became a Miami Hurricane series with co-managing editor Cam Underwood sharing his story.

Jason Geathers #3

Well, here we are friends. This is the last installment of our “Why I Became A Miami Hurricane” series. I had this idea for this content stream late one night, and the SOTU staff bought into it 100% once I shared it with them. I really hope these personal stories are something that you’ve enjoyed.

Anyway, this is my story:

I never wanted to be a Hurricane.

For those who don’t know, I grew up in Detroit. I have family who went to the University of Michigan, and I went to tons of Football games in The Big House and basketball games at Crisler Arena. As for my fandom, I was all Maize and Blue. I mean, I watched Michigan State games, and University of Detroit Mercy games, but who was my team? Michigan. Hands down.

That was, until June came around. Being a person who loves baseball, I would inevitably find myself watching the College World Series from historic Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. And, every year that I watched, this team in Orange and Green was there. This team with an Olde English M on their hats — similar to the Olde English D the Tigers wear on theirs — caught my attention. It was then that I was first introduced to the Miami Hurricanes.

That fandom went dormant for 11 1/2 months of the year, and resurfaced every June. I would find a TV Guide (I’m old, shut up) and find out when the games were playing, and I would watch. I even talked my Dad into getting me a Canes Baseball Hat (I have a picture of this, but I can’t find it now). I wore that thing EVERYWHERE all summer long. People would stop and ask me “Cam, what hat is that?” My answer “It’s a Canes hat. They’re the best.” Foreshadowing, I guess.

Every now and then, I would catch a Miami football game. Remember, in the 80s and 90s, TV coverage wasn’t what it is now. So, if there was a Michigan or Michigan State game on locally, there was no chance any Detroit-area station would cover the Canes football game. So, until my senior year of high school, I think I only saw maybe 2 Hurricanes Football games. Like I said, my story is different.

In my senior year (Class of 2000, so the fall of 1999), when I was looking at Colleges to apply to, I went to a college fair at Lahser HS. At this event, I met a bunch of recruiters who had previously sent me letters, and just looked to gather information on schools I might like. As I went around, I saw the University of Miami table. My mom had moved to Broward County before my senior year (I stayed in Michigan to finish up at Cranbrook — yes, THAT CRANBROOK), so I thought “hey, let’s see what that school is all about”. I spoke to the recruiter, and I tried to see if, thru my mom’s residency, I could get in-state tuition. “The University of Miami is a private school”, the recruiter told me. And I remember my answer like it was yesterday: “wait.....the Miami with the good baseball team? The one with the National Championships in football? THAT’S A PRIVATE SCHOOL!!?!?!?!?!?” Having been to private schools my entire life to that point, yes, including Cranbrook, I was intrigued.

But, even still, I didn’t want to be a Hurricane. My #1 choice for college was . . . .Vanderbilt. Yeah, I know what you’re saying: “Vanderbilt, Cam? VANDERBILT?!?!?!” Yes, okay. We all make mistakes. But, to the point, I wanted to be an education major and continue in music (I’d been performing since 2nd grade, and was in a professional choir for 2 years in HS) and thought Vanderbilt and the Peabody Conservatory of Music would give me the educational and musical balance I was seeking. Who cares if the sports were downright dreadful. That didn’t mean that much, did it? (yes, yes it did, you idiot. Wake up).

After not being able to make Vanderbilt work for reasons which are immaterial to this story, I finally, reluctantly, called my mom and told her I was picking Miami. It was anti-climactic. It was settling for something other than what 18 year old Cam wanted. I’d skipped 4 classes on decision day, calling people in Nashville (a city I’ve still, to this day, never been to) begging for them to work with me to make my Vanderbilt dreams come true. None of them would budge. That was the best thing that ever happened to me.

After spending a summer working as a camp counselor in Ft. Lauderdale, I moved into my dorm, Stanford Residential College, Walsh Tower, room 1220, the day after I turned 19. I was a world away from all of my friends. I was 1800 miles away from my girlfriend. I was at a school that I settled for. I was somewhere that I’d never planned to be.

I was in the perfect place.

Orientation was amazing. I met so many people, and some of them have become lifelong friends. Some may even be reading this piece. The guys on my floor, Walsh 12, they’re my brothers. We went through so much together. From pranking one friend that he’d gotten kicked out of school, to infinite amounts of hall sports, to late night shenanigans, to winning Sports Fest 2002, the times I shared with them are some of my most treasured memories. But, few things are more memorable than our trips to the Orange Bowl on Saturday afternoons.

Like I said before, I’d been to tons of College Football games before arriving at The U. I’d been to Michigan Stadium more times than I can count. I’d been to Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. I’d even been to see games at Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. I wasn’t new to College Football. Or so I thought.

The first game of my freshman year was against McNeese State. I knew of this school because Hall of Fame Detroit Pistons guard Joe Dumars went there, so I thought it would be a good game. I was wrong. Miami beat McNeese State 61-14. Santana Moss had a punt return for a touchdown in the first half, and some Miami player had one of the biggest blocks I’ve ever seen. He’d sized up this poor McNeese State defender from about 40 yards away. It was one of those blocks where the blocker waves the runner his way, all the while he’s running and setting an unsuspecting opponent up for the biggest hit ever. And boy, did that block deliver. It was electric. Before that game, I never thought I’d see a better football team than the Michigan Wolverines 1997 National Championship team. Woooo boy, was I wrong.

After that, my friends and I were at every single Canes game. Thursday night game before an 8am Music Theory test? Yup. Saturday Game at Noon? Yup. We were in there. And, with every passing game, my fandom grew.

If there was any question about where my allegiance would be, the Miami-Florida State game in 2000 answered that. That game was amazing. All of it. The Seminoles, cocky and brash on a 5 game win streak vs the Canes coming into the OB. Their band playing that damned warchant (the first time I heard it, it silenced 70,000 screaming Miami fans, and felt like the heat of the sun from 2 ft away). Ken Dorsey. Santana Moss. Bobby Bowden. Butch Davis. Ed Reed. Reggie Wayne. JEREMY. MOTHER. FUCKING. SHOCKEY!!!!!!!!!!! It was fantastic. It was amazing. If anybody asked me which singular game made me a Canes fan, this is the game I’d say. Not a doubt in my mind. Oh man that was awesome.

Being at Miami from 2000 to 2004, I had classes with several of your favorite football players. Or ran into them in the dining hall (Bryant McKinnie ate more food at lunch one day than anyone I’d ever seen). Santana Moss even saved me from getting my ass kicked for cutting between the “football player benches” in front of the Memorial Building one day. That was awesome. Those OL/DL/gigantic dudes would have pounded me THROUGH the pavement.

But, more than that, I saw the pinnacle of Miami Hurricanes football firsthand.

After losing at Washington the 2nd game of my freshman year, Miami didn’t lose another game until my senior year. No, we didn’t lose that Fiesta Bowl. Fuck you, Terry Porter.

So, every week, it was a party. For home games, my friends and I would get to the OB early, park in the same guy’s yard (hola, Guillermo!!), tailgate, party, and leave by halftime, because we were already up by 35. It was great. It was fun. It was perfect. And, through all those days in the sun, yelling my voice out (my choir director was NOT pleased I did that) and having a good time, I forged a lifelong bond with my alma mater and its sports teams.

After college, I kept going to the games. I kept talking about the Canes to anybody who would listen. Of course, that means I’d have fights with Florida fans or Florida State fools, but that’s the cost of doing business, I guess.

I might not be the longest tenured Canes fan. I wasn’t born into this. I haven’t been a Cane from birth, or a young age, or because of family. But, I am 100% a Miami Hurricane, and have been ever since the day after my 19th birthday. The day I set foot on campus in Coral Gables, I’ve been a Cane, and there’s nothing that can change that.

The University of Miami has given me so much. It’s given me the team that I root for most fervently. It’s given me friends that will last a lifetime. It showed me that music education was my calling, and that I had the skills to make a major impact in that field. It’s given me all of that and so much more.

So, that’s my story. I’m just a kid from Detroit who wanted to go to Vanderbilt and instead landed at the best possible University for me. Being a Cane isn’t just for those who play scholarship sports. It’s for every one of us, on campus or off, who wear the orange and green proudly.

And that’s why I am a Miami Hurricane. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Southern Suns, and sky blue water,
Smile upon you Alma Mater;
Mistress of this fruitful land,
With all knowledge at your hand,
Always just to honor true,
All our love we pledge to you,
Alma Mater, stand forever,
On Biscayne’s wondrous shore.