We have all witnessed the great comeback story, the last second field goal, the Hail Mary catch that turned a stadium engulfed in silence into an environment of unstoppable jubilation. Many of these stories are etched in our mind, cemented in time by our unwillingness to forget them. Perhaps, to the die-hard Miami Hurricane fan, one of the greatest moments in its illustrious history didn’t come from a perfect catch or the wide right field goals. It was not defined by a play that won the game, it was a test of leadership that inspired a season and lead them to their fifth national championship.
In 2001, an impromptu speech by Ed Reed catapulted the Miami Hurricanes into a season many define as the greatest team in college football history. Up 21-13 at halftime to Florida State, but playing with a lack of passion Reed’s leadership fueled a second-half rout. "I'm hurt, dawg; don't ask me if I'm all right," Reed said as the team prepared to take the field. "Hell, naw. Joaquin said, “Dominate” and we're not doing it. I'm putting my heart in this [expletive]. Let's go, man."
It is spring of 2017 and a new era of Hurricane football is being developed. Optimism is at an all-time high. Miami is littered with young talent across the field. It has been a long time since Miami has started spring practice after a dominating bowl victory. Mark Richt and his coaching staff have created a culture reminiscent of those that brought us five national championships. As fans, our hands stay glued to our phones looking for any insight on who our next quarterback will be, wondering if the offensive line will finally step up, and will our young defense continue its ascendance to the top of college football. Those questions will undoubtedly be answered, however, there is one question that is just as important this spring and fall that needs to be answered. Who will provide the Ed Reed moment, whose leadership will stand out and allow this talented team to realize its full potential?
Fast forward to September 16, its halftime and Miami is down by 14 to Florida State. The locker-room is silent, yet the loudness of desolation echoes from face to face. How did they get here? They were a team of destiny, a team that prepared to win this game when no one else thought they could. All the hard work, the running, weight lifting and long hours of film sessions lead them to this moment, but it was not supposed to end like this. Down 14 to a team whom they have not beaten in 7 years. This is that moment when their character is tested, hope is challenged and leaders stand tall. Who will be that leader that is tested and inspiring? Who on this team will provide that Ed Reed moment?
As a team, the Hurricanes have already been tested. They have experienced victories and defeats. More than experiencing these situations, they have successfully and unsuccessfully worked through them. In their success, there was growth just as it were in their unsuccessful experiences.
This is the moment when being good is not enough, this is the moment when a new Hurricane will inspire his teammates to do more than they thought was possible. This is that moment when someone will realize leaders are not born, leaders are not chosen, leaders are developed! This is that moment when they realize that all great comebacks started with a voice.
Back on the Greentree practice field, the young upstart Miami Hurricanes filled with talent and optimism is now preparing for that moment. Who will be that leader? Who will stand up and speak? Whose voice will cut through the deafening silence? Will it be Jaquan Johnson, Shaq Quarterman, Mark Walton or will it be a player whose voice has not been echoed yet? This spring, summer, and fall will no doubt be dedicated to finding out who will step up and be ready to play. What will not and cannot be lost in the battle of competition is the development of a leader or leaders who will carry this team beyond speed and power.
Every day that the 2017 Miami Hurricanes take the practice field they are surrounded by a wall painted with pictures of Hurricane greats. These young Hurricanes are standing on the shoulders of giants. The question that remains is who will step down off that shoulder and become a giant?
A new season awaits!