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Michigan had always been my #1 school...
Hear me out. You see, my dad was born and raised in Wayne, Michigan. For him, my grandpa, and uncles, it was all about the Wolverines. My dad and his family relocated down to Cooper City, Florida when he was in high school and never left South Florida after that. I was born in Hollywood, Florida in 1991 and growing up, the Miami Hurricanes were the local team, but they were always number #2 to Michigan. My dad raised my brother and I as Wolverines fans and we hated Ohio State with a true passion most commonly reserved for your least favorite dictator. There’s plenty of pictures and videos of me as a kid throwing around a certain plush Michigan football that I may or may not have slept with every. Single. Night. Charles Woodson with the rose in his mouth after winning the Rose Bowl. Desmond Howard’s punt return to the house against Ohio State where he hit that Heisman pose in the endzone. Hey, I may not have been old enough to know what was going on, but those were the iconic visuals that I carried through my earliest years. And come on, Tom Brady? Love him or hate him. But respect the GOAT.
But that’s not what this story is about. Like many others, I started to fall head over heels for Miami during the days of Ken Dorsey and the ‘01 Canes (I was around 10 years old now). Living 30 minutes outside of Miami in Weston, Florida, it was hard not to. They were just so cool! There was no other team like Miami out there, plain and simple. The players acted different. They talked different. Hell, they played different.
Incredible speed all over the field. Punishing hits leaving opponents wondering the decade. Unmatched passion for the game and their teammates. Those were some of the best teams I’ve ever, and will ever, watch. Ed Reed. Andre Johnson. Willis McGahee. Jeremy Shockey. I could go on and on, but you already know. They were just that much better than everyone else... and everyone knew it. And, remember, this was all right during the time period where I was an impressionable youngster, just becoming old enough to start really watching and following football consistently. It was way too much for a 10 year old sports fanatic to resist and, that was that, I was hooked. It was the perfect storm (pun slightly intended).
Dorsey was my favorite player and I bought his jersey. To this day, I still wear that jersey to almost every game (I sometimes wear my Sean Spence #31). I loved the way he led his team into battle with a fiery spirit and the way he always seemed to make a play at the exact right time, when the team needed it most. My 10 year old brain couldn’t comprehend why Dorsey didn’t win the Heisman in 2001. “Who the heck is Eric Crouch? They know Ken Dorsey is the best player right?”. Going to the Rose Bowl and stomping Crouch and Nebraska for the national title was like a “Kill Bill” revenge fantasy. It was the sweetest payback I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Then there were the memories.
The under 2 minute drive to come back against FSU in 2000... Dorsey over the middle to Shockey! There was the Ed Reed pick-six to seal the game against Boston College and save the perfect season in ‘01, with BC driving and all hope seemingly lost.
I remember jumping up and down cheering, feeling complete jubilation as the Miami sidelines stormed the field when the final pass from Ohio State’s Craig Krenzel to Chris Gamble fell incomplete in the Fiesta Bowl for the 2002 National Championship. I also remember my insides dropping way below the floor when the refs threw a flag 3 SECONDS LATER. I’d never felt sicker than I did after that loss. As a Michigan fan, I didn’t think my hatred for Ohio State could have ever grown any larger. I found out that was false. I still get a sinking, depressing feeling just thinking about that moment. Ugh.
One of my funniest memories though was Brock Berlin’s second half comeback against UF in 2003, after he transferred to Miami from Florida. That’s because we had a close family friend over the house for the game, one of the biggest UF fans you’ll ever meet, and we made him sit in this dinky Miami fold-up chair while we all sat on the nice, comfy couch. The whole first half was just an embarrassment, with UF going up 33-10. This guy was talking some serious smack, let me tell you.
Then, Brock caught fire. One touchdown pass. “No big deal. We’re up plenty!”, says UF fan. Then another touchdown. You could see him start to sweat a bit. “Berlin still sucks. We’ll put the game away on this drive.” Then another. He wasn’t completely silenced yet, just muttering to himself at this point. When Frank Gore ran in the winning touchdown and the clock struck zero, the scoreboard read 38-33 Miami. The biggest second half comeback in Miami history. “We beat you with your own quarterback! YOUR OWN QUARTERBACK!”, I exclaimed. The phrase “eating crow” doesn’t even do this situation justice as UF guy sat in stunned silence. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sadder person in my life as he sulked out the door. Schadenfreude never felt so good.
My first Miami game in person? It was in 2006 at the Orange Bowl, in which Miami beat FIU 35-0. Not much to see, right? Well, as Donald Trump would say....
I sat in the endzone closest to the melee with my dad and best friend. We watched in awe as the benches cleared and Anthony Reddick swung his helmet around like he was a 5 year old at a birthday party going for a haymaker on the piñata. People were fighting in the stands. And all the while we were just cheering, hooting, and hollering! It’s something I’ll never forget.
Soon after, I graduated high school in 2009 and it was time to pick a college to attend. As always, it came down to Michigan or Miami. For reasons that have nothing to do with this article, Michigan wasn’t going to work out. So from there, Miami was the obvious choice. I lived in Stanford Dorm, Rosborough Tower, and to fire up the cliche machine, yes, it felt like it was yesterday. I was excited for many reasons. My formative years at Miami began when the famous #1 overall, Miami Northwestern 2008 class had just finished their freshman seasons in impressive fashion. Marcus Forston. Aldarious Johnson. Sean Spence. Jacory Harris. These were the guys that were going to take on the mantle of past greats. Randy Shannon was the local boy come home to roost and was destined to lead Miami back to the promised land. I was gonna be around for the return of the Miami dynasty!
We all know how that worked out. But that’s not to say I didn’t have some great times as a student. I was at Doak Campbell Stadium for Miami’s last win versus FSU *cringe* in 2009. I was present for the take down of #8 Oklahoma in Miami shortly after. I beared witness to some satisfying justice against Ohio State in 2011 (really, realllllly loved that). And watching in the stands as Gators QB Jeff Driskel turned the ball over 3 times in a Miami win over UF in 2013, while also knowing Florida wouldn’t want to play us again for at least 5 years, was downright hilarious (SIDE NOTE: How was Jeff Driskel drafted into the NFL? HOW?!).
I went from a boy to a man at the University of Miami. I grew into myself around Touchdown Tommy blasting off and Sebastian running through that smoke. There’s a famous saying that Miami players, coaches, students, alumni, and fans always gravitate towards... “It’s a Canes thing, you wouldn’t understand.” And, for the most part, that’s true. I know it because I lived it. It truly did feel like us against the world. We were a small, private school trying to stay afloat in the ever-changing world of big-time college football, attempting to compete with the large public school’s money machines of infinite boosters and giant alumni bases. And I won’t even begin to get into the whole Nevin Shapiro deal.
While all of my friends from home went off to FSU or UF after high school, I started all over on my own at Miami. I met a wonderful community of people through living on campus and knew, or was at least familiar with, most of my class because of this tight-knit collective, something you could never do at a large public school. It was more than just football or the individual people: It was its own culture. I made memories that will last a lifetime and I still carry that zealousness for all things Miami Hurricanes even today, being privileged to write about the greatest team in the history of college football.
...And that’s the story of how Michigan became my #2 school.
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