On Sunday, April 14th, millions of people across the country (and abroad) will be on the edge of their seats as the one of the greatest shows on television begins its eighth and final season. This show, of course, is Game of Thrones, HBO’s captivating series based off of George R.R. Martin’s collection of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. As is customary when discussing the series, here is a spoiler warning for anyone who isn’t up-to-date on the show, as we will be discussing developments that span over all seven previous seasons of the show.
One of the main characters in the show and books is Jon Snow, who starts out as a bastard son of one of the many kings on the main continent of Westeros. Without a claim to a throne, or any real direction, Jon feels insignificant and lost, but with every episode gets more clarity on his significance and purpose in the world. Fast forward to the end of season 7, Jon is a king and one of the greatest warriors in the land, he has a secret parentage that gives him a potential claim to the highest throne in Westeros, and he’s currently aligned with one of the most dangerous players in the game of thrones (a certain someone with dragons). There’s still plenty more Jon can find out about himself in the final season, but the sky is the limit for the “illegitimate” and constantly brooding kid from Winterfell.
How does one of the most important characters on television relate to Miami Football? Look no further to the man currently at the helm, Manny Diaz.
One of the main storylines of Game of Thrones is the prophecy of Azor Ahai, also known as “The prince that was promised.” He is described as someone “born amidst smoke and salt,” and “who will triumph over darkness and bring a summer that will never end.” Based on what has transpired in the show thus far, many believe Azor Ahai to be Jon Snow, although that is not confirmed. Jon fits into much of the prophecy, and Canes fans have reason to be encouraged by the current man in charge of the football for many of the same reasons.
Born amidst smoke and salt
Jon Snow is betrayed by the soldiers of the Night’s Watch, of which he served as Lord Commander. The soldiers each take turns stabbing him in the chest and stomach, and after his body is recovered, his wounds emit smoke just before he is resurrected, relating to the Azor Ahai prophecy. Manny Diaz grew up a Canes fan, the program that came to prominence as their players emerged through the smoke:
Their origin stories are much more significant than originally thought:
Jon Snow believed he was born out of wedlock to Ned Stark, the king of the north. Without legitimate parentage, he would never be in line for a dignified position, and struggled early in the season with his lack of direction, resulting in his decision to head north to the wall to become part of the Night’s Watch. That decision would result in a series of events that would put him in the position to be king of the north. There may be much loftier heights for Jon due to his actual parentage, but his current position is already much further from where he could have ever imagined.
Manny Diaz did not come from a legacy of athletes, although he carved out a role for himself as a multi-sport athlete at Miami Country Day, a small private K-12 school. He didn’t make it to the collegiate ranks, however, and instead pursued sports journalism, ending up at ESPN working for Monday Night Football. That was already a notable achievement, but Diaz couldn’t fight the urge to get into coaching. He got his start at his alma mater, FSU, and had to endure Wide Right I and Wide Right II before moving on to NC State, then Middle Tennessee State, the Mississippi State and then Texas, where he was a defensive coordinator under Mack Brown.
Both men needed ‘resurrection’
One of the biggest storylines of the show started at the end of season 5, when Jon Snow was betrayed by his men in the Night’s Watch. Jon was stabbed a dozen times after his men disagreed with his decision to let the Wildlings into their castle. The season finale closed with the camera on Jon’s lifeless face as he lay bleeding in the snow. For the next 10 months, everyone involved with the show was tasked with keeping the secret of Jon’s fate, but ultimately, the lord commander was resurrected by Melisandre, a priestess of R’hllor in the second episode of season 6. This experience would give Jon the courage to take on various foes, such as Ramsay Bolton and the Night King.
Let’s look back at Coach Diaz’s time at Texas under Mack Brown. A defensive coordinator job at one of the most recognizable programs in the country under a national championship winning coach sounds like an ideal situation for a young, up-and-coming coach. Unfortunately, Manny’s experience in Austin did not go as planned. His tenure lasted 28 games, but Coach Diaz was fired after Texas gave up 40 points in the second game of the season against BYU. The defensive coordinator shouldered most of the blame, although it’s still debated whether the blame was well deserved. His career had taken a big hit, but it was far from over.
After returning to Mississippi State for a season, Diaz was brought to Miami by Mark Richt, and the Miami-native would waste no time resurrecting his coaching career by taking a woeful Canes defense and turning it into the #2 unit in the nation in 3 seasons. As if his path back home wasn’t winding enough, this wouldn’t be the last time his role as a Miami coach would have to be brought back from the dead.
Before the Canes bowl game against Wisconsin after the 2018 season, Manny was offered the head coaching job at Temple. 5 years after being canned at Texas, Diaz was a sought-after defensive mastermind. The Canes, however, were in disarray, losing to Wisconsin by 32 points and calling Coach Richt’s coaching abilities into question. Then, just 3 days later, Richt stepped down, leaving Miami without direction.
Just as swiftly as uncertainty entered the minds of Canes fans, Manny Diaz reappeared. Within 24 hours, Miami football went from inevitable mediocrity to a newfound wonder of potential success. Manny would have to reverse course on his Temple offer, but it was well worth it. “It would be hard to explain if you came back in a time machine,” Diaz told Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. “But somehow it fits. After the initial shock of this whole thing happening, I feel very confident I’m in the right spot.”
Both men have a unique ability to inspire
One of the main reasons that Jon Snow ascends to the role of King of the North is his natural inclination to lead. An unwavering moral code coupled with his experiences beyond the wall and returning from the dead make his case when appealing to the North to support his causes. He is able to leave a lasting mark on kings and common folk alike from all over Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Davos Seaworth, Tormund and more have all pledged their loyalty to Jon for no other reason than they believe he will always do what is right.
Manny Diaz’s effects on the program are everywhere, even more so now that he is at the head of it all. The first piece of evidence that comes to mind is the Turnover Chain.
The iconic piece of jewelry was Diaz’s brainchild, and it sparked instant success. Turnovers went from being a weakness of Miami’s defense in 2016 to an identity of the group in 2017. You can see how much influence it has on the players in the video above.
Diaz is also an extremely animated coach on the sideline, constantly demonstrating the energy level he wants to see on the field. Lastly, his new branding of the program, “The New Miami,” underscores Manny’s approach to the game, and appears to have the majority of the team already bought in.
Every year, the talking heads of college football throw around the prophecy of whether “Miami is back.” We are still searching for that coach that will actually make that happen. When you all watch the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones this Sunday evening, and Jon Snow appears on screen to fight the White Walkers, take a moment to consider that Miami could have its own Jon Snow, walking the halls of the Soffer Indoor Practice Facility, doing everything in his ability to fulfill the prophecy of Miami being back.