The number eighty-eight has quite the notable history at Miami. From 1996-2001, eighty-eight was donned by Bubba Franks and Jeremy Shockey, a couple of southwestern boys who were key to earning the moniker of ‘Tight End U’. Both men are not only all-time Miami legends but also enjoyed prolonged, Pro Bowl caliber careers in the NFL.
Dan Franks, aka Bubba Franks, showed up in Miami from Big Spring, Texas. A huge tight end at 6’6”, Bubba had a knack for pass catching and displayed numerous beautiful snags throughout his four years at Miami. Overall, he finished with 77 total receptions and set a Miami tight end record of 12 career touchdown receptions. I’d say that’s pretty good if every sixth pass you catch is a score.
Apparently, the NFL thought that was pretty good too. The Green Bay Packers drafted the 1st team All-Big East and All-American tight end with the fourteenth overall pick in 2000. Across his sustained nine year NFL career, Bubba was selected to three Pro Bowls and amassed considerable numbers as one of The Gunslinger’s favorite targets. Bubba finished as Green Bay’s second all-time tight end in terms of receptions and TDs. Like all mortals, injuries and age caught up with poor Bubba. He retired after the 2008 season which he spent with the Jets and two years later was inducted in to the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.
Up next, Jeremy Shockey. A JUCO transfer from Oklahoma, most Canes fans first remember Shockey from his performance against FSU in 2000. He literally won that game in the final minute, so he naturally became a cult hero and fan favorite. 88 continued to dominate in 2001 doing his part with 61 passes, 815 yards, and 10 TDs en route to an undefeated national championship. Pretty beastly.
Jeremy kept tacking on the accolades when he moved up to the NFL. The Giants drafted the All-American in the first round, and Jeremy answered the bell with a Pro Bowl rookie year. Four more Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl championships later, Shockey is entrenched as one of the greatest tight ends in football history. Last playing for the Carolina Panthers in 2011, Shockey ended his career with 6,143 yards and 37 touchdowns. He was recently honored as part of the 2017 University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame class.
Now, for a personal Jeremy Shockey anecdote. In 2010, when the Saints were using Greentree for Super Bowl practice, I was walking outside The Hecht as the entire team was loading up on their bus. I spotted Jeremy Shockey at which time the following conversation ensued (to the best of my memory):
Me: “Hey Shockey, good luck on Sunday!”
JS: “Man, everyone is talking [poop] about the locker room facilities. I told ‘em, man if it was good enough for me to win a national championship then it’s good enough for you”
Me: (awkwardly) “Haha…go Canes!”
Turns out he was right. The Saints won that Super Bowl.
So what has the number 88 been up to these days? Well, it has been hanging around with Brian Polendey, an early enrollee freshman hoping to honor the number’s prestige. Brian has his work cut out for him if he wants meaningful playing time, although it will help to already have a spring season under his belt. Not the most athletic player at the position, Polendey will differentiate himself by being a physical blocker who likes to get down-n-dirty at the line of scrimmage. Herndon, Irvin, and Haskins will all likely stay ahead on the 2017 depth chart, and with Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory committed for 2018, it could be tough for Polendey to become much more than a career special teamer. But that’s OK. Those guys are very important to any team, and I hope the surrounding talent will push Brian to elevate his play. Good luck this year Brian, hope you’re enjoying Tight End U.