A day closer to Miami Hurricanes football, and another number down in our countdown to kickoff. Today, we look at a few players who have starred in the 36 jersey for the Canes.
S Bennie Blades
The Blades family are Miami royalty, and one of the first members of that family to play at UM was Bennie. After graduating from Sunrise (FL) Piper HS, Blades made his way to Coral Gables in 1985 to join his brother WR Brian Blades (who is a year older) and play for the Canes.
Bennie was an immediate impact player for Miami. He played as a freshman, with several tackles and 4 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. After that first impression, Bennie followed that up with a Nation-leading 10 interceptions as a sophomore. Blades and the late Sean Taylor hold the record for most interceptions in a single season by a Canes player (10) to this day.
Not content to rest of that performance, Bennie had another 5 interceptions as a junior in 1987 and was one of the leaders on field that led the Miami Hurricanes National Championship that season.
Bennie was a 1st team All-American as both a sophomore and a junior. He also won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best Collegiate Defensive Back in America as a junior.
After the 1987 season, Bennie joined brother Brian in departing the Canes and declaring for the NFL Draft. Bennie was selected in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Blades was selected 3rd overall, which is among the earliest picks ever used on a Safety.
This is where I knew Bennie Blades. Watching him and the Lions play Sunday after Sunday, year after year. And for his part, Blades was worth watching.
Blades played for the Lions from 1988-1996, starting nearly every game along the way. He was a pro bowler in 1991, the last season that the Lions won a playoff game.
Blades’ play helped the Lions win 2 NFC North Championships, and appear in the 1991 NFC Championship game. He was a 5 year captain on the defense for the Lions, and his 815 tackles with the team ranked him 2nd all-time among Lions defenders.
In 1997, Bennie left Detroit and signed with the Seattle Seahawks to play his final NFL season along with his brother Brian, who was a WR for the team. It was just like old days for the Blades boys, who played together in High School, College, and the NFL. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.
Blades retired from the NFL in 1997. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Blades’ son H.B played LB at Pitt in the early 2000s. His younger brother was the late Al Blades, who played safety at Miami as well. Bennie is the uncle of 2018 commit Al Blades Jr., a top recruit for the Canes.
WR Lamar Thomas
A player with an elite combination of size, speed, and skill, Lamar Thomas was a great player over his 4 year career with the Hurricanes.
After joining the Canes in 1989, Thomas immediately made an impact on the field. He had 15 catches for 205 yards and a TD as a freshman, and that performance was just the beginning of a legendary collegiate career.
By the time Thomas was playing for the Canes in 1992, he had set a record (since broken) for catches in a career (144), with 2271 yards and 23 TDs. He also tied Michael Irvin’s record for consecutive games with a catch (33), which has since been passed. Thomas and Irvin’s streak now sits 2nd in the record book. Thomas was a member of 2 National Championship teams (1989, 1991) in his time at Miami.
After his college days, Thomas was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 3rd round of the 1993 NFL Draft. Thomas played 3 seasons for the Bucs before joining the Miami Dolphins, with whom he would play the final 5 seasons of his NFL career.
After his playing career, Thomas used his bravado to great success as a color commentator on football broadcasts. Thomas was on the call for the infamous Miami-FIU fight in 2006. Thomas may have been a bit too enthusiastic with his commentary at that time, and was removed from broadcasts due to that fact.
Following that, Thomas decided to get into the world of coaching. He has coached WRs at Hampton University (2008-10), Western Kentucky (2011-12), Louisville (2013-15), and Kentucky (2016-present). Thomas-coached WRs have been very successful at the collegiate level, and several have progressed to the NFL as well.
For his great success while at Miami, Lamar Thomas was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
S Maurice Sykes
A talented player who started on the greatest college football team ever, S Maurice Sikes didn’t have the name recognition of others on the Canes, but had every bit of the athleticism and performance of his peers.
Sikes played in 9 games as a sophomore for the 2001 Hurricanes National Championship team. He would start at Safety in 2002 and 2003 next to the late Sean Taylor, forming a dynamic duo in the middle of the field that few teams wanted to face. Sikes stepped into a starting role in 2003 with great success. He ended that season with 68 tackles, 1 QB hurry, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered, 9 PBUs, and 3 interceptions, 2 of which he returned for touchdowns.
While he was a force to be reckoned with in college, Sikes didn’t make an impact in the NFL. He was undrafted following his college career. Yet and still, that can’t detract from the performance he displayed for the Canes.
Others to wear 36: FB Marquez Williams.