The Miami Hurricanes have cancelled the football game set for September 9, 2017 at the Arkansas State Red Wolves because of Hurricane Irma. The category 5 hurricane and potential after-effects made it appropriate to cancel sporting events — Soccer, Cross Country, and Volleyball contests were canceled as well.
But back in 1992, Hurricane Andrew had already hit and the Miami Hurricanes decided that playing out in Ames, Iowa against the Hawkeyes was best for business.
I was a young buck of nine years old when Hurricane Andrew changed my life. Spending August preparing for football season was the norm. We were all at pre-season camp doing conditioning drills that have since been proven unscientific to prepare for a football game or season sweating in the Miami heat. Then the storm came. We evacuated the Cutler Ridge area for Kendall and what wound up a lose-lose type of situation. We should’ve headed up to Jacksonville or Orlando to stay with family but we took on the storm. On August 24th of 1992, Andrew tore through our lives.
As a small kid I only knew one thing to do, duck. Once the storm was passed and things had settled we went back to our home a few minutes from my Aunt and Uncle’s in Kendall to see we had lost it all. Our house was destroyed. My other uncle came down to get my brother and I and we were gone. At the same time one of my heroes from my favorite team was sharing the same issues. I’ve written about Michael Barrow here before, but I’m not sure I can emphasize the role he played in my childhood.
Michael Barrow, The Face of Miami
Mike Barrow was the face of football for me. He was the man that made me want to be a football player but at the same time made me realize I probably never could be. Standing at over six foot and 230 pounds he was intimidating, dominant, and brilliant. He seemingly made every tackle, at least every tackle I could remember over a three year period. He was toughness, determination, he was my hero. If you ask me who is the face of Miami Hurricanes’ football, I will saw number 56 in orange and green.
Barrow obviously carried the same weight in the Miami locker room as he did in my heart. In the New York Times piece called, “Miami Linebacker Fulfills a Family Tie”, written by Charlie Nobles heading into the Hurricanes’ match-up in Iowa it showed more than ever.
Barrow finally joined them Friday -- to an emotional outpouring of high-fives and wild clapping from his teammates.
"Everybody respects him," said senior cornerback Ryan McNeil. "And everybody knows what he's gone through."
Barrow was the captain of the greatest team I had ever seen. He also was a leader in life. When Hurricane Andrew swept through his neighborhood he left pre-season practices to find his mother and help rebuild his neighborhood. His mother’s home was ruined but Michael stayed strong and she moved in with him in Coral Gables. Barrow said, "I had to be there for my mom. I was willing to miss how many games I had to miss to make sure she was all right.”
After a couple of weeks, we left my aunt and uncle’s house in Orlando and moved to Green Cove Springs, Florida and stayed in a little house on a lot of land off a dirt road. For two kids from Miami, a dirt road was pretty weird and of course I played football. Two siblings at 9 and 13 sharing a room with their grandma while their parents tried to rebuild down in Miami. What did we bond about? Our mutual love of the song “Rump Shaker,” for sure; and of course our ‘Canes.
Overcoming the ‘Noles
I can specifically remember leaning up against the back of my grandma’s couch while Tamarick Vanover returned the kick off for a touchdown and being devastated. The Hurricanes can’t lose, not this year, not to Florida State. Shocked but hopeful, we cheered anyway and the ‘Canes rallied. Miami overcame the ‘Noles 19-16 on another wide right field goal. After a series of close games Miami seemed to overcome Hurricane Andrew both on and off the field to finish the regular season 11-0. The city’s team was undefeated and the city was battling back itself.
Our spirits rose. We had the ‘Canes to lean on, to keep us together. We had Barrow to look up to. A winner, a guy that was so young but had seen so much and done much more for his community. We could stay positive because our captain could- he said, “To me, that's the bright spot out of all this. It is bringing people together."
Until finding this article to write the piece on Barrow for the countdown, I didn’t realize how connected he and I were during the rebuilding times of 1992.
And before he left Miami, Barrow moved his mother and his 10-year-old brother, Keith, to his apartment near Miami Arena.
My family and I also moved near the Miami Arena while waiting for our house to be rebuilt. My brother and I slept on the floor of our tiny one bedroom apartment and played Tecmo Super Bowl on NES. It was on those mattresses in that living room that I saw the unthinkable- Miami lost the 1993 Sugar Bowl to Alabama.
A season of hard fought wins against Arizona, Penn State, Florida State, and Syracuse just fell apart in the championship game. But even with that final game as bad as it was, it wasn’t a season lost. Sometimes the journey is more important than the result and in my heart the 1992 team will always be my favorite and the one that ties my bond to the Miami Hurricanes.
As we brace for Hurricane Irma I hope we can bond together, stay strong, and support our community the way our 1992 Hurricanes did and how Michael Barrow and his teammates did after Andrew. Be safe, everyone.