The word “dog” will be used a lot in this article, that's just because these guys were some straight DOGS. We all know what Miami is like and what it’s always been like. Not just on both sides of the ball but the demeanor and character the players brought out.
Rightly or wrongly, Miami has always been known from other fan bases as “Thug U”, and this list brings those savages to the spotlight. We’re counting down the most fierce players to ever wear a Miami Hurricane uniform.
The list is based on the toughness, appearance, trash talking & just being a DOG. This is my opinion on the top ten:
10. Dan Morgan (1997-2000)
At 6’3”, 230 lbs. LB Dan Morgan was a straight up beast. Hailing from Coral Springs, FL, he was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
As a senior in 2000 with the Miami Hurricanes, Morgan won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, the Bednarik Award for the top defensive award, and the Nagurski Award for the College Defensive Player of the Year. No other college football player had ever won all 3 of these awards in a career, let alone in a single season. Until Dan Morgan, that is.
That same season (2000), Morgan was unanimously voted the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a consensus First Team All–American as a senior, adding to an already impressive list of career accolades he had accumulated to that point.
Morgan brought a certain type of “dog” in him that was just savage. From that big neck roll to the large 44 across his chest, Dan Morgan was probably someone you didn't want to mess with on the field, probably like the rest of the Hurricanes on this list.
9. Devin Hester (2003-2005)
Personally my favorite Cane of all time, Devin Hester wasn't just a savage physically, but mentally as well. Whenever Hester went back deep for a punt or kick return, the crowd, the broadcasters, the Hurricanes and even the other team knew something outrageous was about to happen.
Hailing from Riviera Beach, FL, Hester was a lethal weapon for kick returning and at wide receiver. One of the most explosive players in Miami Hurricanes history, his speed was something out of a movie. Everyone knows about the Duke punt return when he broke countless tackles for the touchdown. However, my favorite and probably the most savage moment of his career was the 97-yard kick off return to start the game against the Florida Gators in 2003. The helmet comes off in the end zone so the whole world can see his face and what he just did.
8. Michael Barrow (1989-1992)
From Homestead, FL, LB Michael Barrow was born and bred with orange and green in him. A muscled and strong 6’2 230 lbs, Barrow brought that “dog” every game. While winning two rings with Hurricanes in ‘89 and ‘91, Barrow was an All-American, BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year and top 10 in the Heisman running during his senior campaign in 1992.
Being a part of the late 80s and early 90s teams, Barrow had a different type of swagger to himself just like the rest of the squad at the time. Inducted to the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 he will always be one of Miami top linebackers of all time. His savage moment came against the Florida State Seminoles when he brought the boom on Tamarick Vanover in 1992. Just another guy you probably did not want to mess with.
7. Ed Reed (1997-2001)
You know who he is. One of the many ball hawks to come from the University of Miami. Born in Saint Rose, Louisiana, Ed Reed started his journey at Miami in 1998. One of the many key players to lead the Canes in their 2001 National Championship run. His presence on the field was frightening to most teams. That smoked visor, his speed, his IQ was something that was not coachable.
Reed holds the record for most career interceptions at Miami with 21, most interceptions returned for touchdowns with four, most career interception return yards with 389 and most season interception return yards with 206. He won countless awards during his time at “The U,” but everyone remembers this one highlight against the Boston College in 2001, the walk-off winner. Straight savage.
6. Warren Sapp (1993-1995)
The big man! Had a hard time choosing for this one, but Sapp had the slight edge when it came to his attitude. Out of Plymouth, FL, 6’2 and nearly 300 lbs, Sapp dominated during his time at Miami. Originally coming in as a TE but quickly moved to the D-Line in the early 90’s, Sapp absolutely excelled at defensive tackle.
Known for his off the field smiles and joyful personality, he became a different type of beast on the field. With many All-American honors, in 1995 he was the unanimous BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year and the Canes’ team MVP award. No one could contain #76, explosive, dominating and fierce are perfect words to describe him. Sapp was a large man that no quarterback wanted to see coming his way. Nonetheless, a “dog.”
What player hyped up the Hurricanes the best?
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Kellen Winslow Jr.
5. Kellen Winslow Jr. (2001-2003)
You want to talk about a dog? Kellen Winslow Jr. was a DOG. Flying over from San Diego to Miami, the wide receiver turned tight end gave it all he had every game. Standing at 6’5 and nearly 250 lbs. he was your ideal tight end that could do a little bit of everything on the field. Winslow II was not the recipient of many awards like the other Hurricanes on this list were, but that did not matter to him; his performance on the field was not to be missed.
In 2003 K2 was a Heisman Trophy Candidate, Walter Camp Player of the Year Candidate, All-American Candidate & BIG EAST All-Conference Candidate. He validated that preseason hype with 60 catches for 605 yards and a TD.
As we all know it’s All About This U. Winslow II said it best after the loss against Tennessee in 2003. If this doesn't get you fired up about Miami Hurricanes football you need to reevaluate your life a little bit.
4. Ray Lewis (1993-1995)
“I had one pair of jeans, I had three white t-shirts, one pack of number two pencils and I had two folders with $20 worth of food stamps.” Ray Lewis, coming from Bartow, FL, quickly became one of the most recognizable Canes of all-time. Apart from the swagger, the bandana, the half jersey, and the abs, Ray Ray had the full package as a linebacker. He was an intimidating, fearless, and vocal leader, and he brought so many characteristics to the table not only with his voice but his stellar play.
One of the hardest hitting linebackers ‘The U’ has ever had, #52 wasn't just a “dog”, he was a “bulldog”. Inducted in 2006 to the UM Sports Hall of Fame, Lewis holds the single season record for most tackles individually with 95 and is tied for second with total tackles and assists with 160. He was named All-BIG EAST in ‘94 and ‘95 and was also named the Jack Harding MVP of the Canes’ team in ‘95. Speed up to 1:00 if you want to see Ray put on a little show for the fans.
3. Jonathan Vilma (2000-2003)
Losing wasn't in his vocabulary. Jonathan Vilma from Coral Gables, FL was a part of some of the best Miami Hurricanes teams of all time. From 2000-2003 Vilma played along side guys like Sean Taylor, Vince Wilfork, D.J Williams, Antrelle Rolle, Ed Reed & many others. He went out a did his thing every Saturday for the Hurricanes. Vilma was a hard hitting player with great IQ and always came up huge in big games.
Vilma led the Hurricanes in tackles for three consecutive years (2001-03) and was a finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation’s most outstanding linebacker as a senior. Like many others on this list he had that “dog” in him but he was more like a “pitbull.” Vilma was another major player in 2001 to lead that team to the National Championship being their lead tackler. During that National Championship game, he basically ended Ben Zajiceck of Nebraska. The picture perfect tackle. Goodnight.
2. Sean Taylor (2001-2003)
First and foremost, rest in peace. The Miami-born safety, Sean Taylor, is arguably the best to ever play the position in the game of football. Taylor was the definition of a ballhawk, the definition of a football player, the definition of a savage. Kind of like Devin Hester, Taylor got to you mentally while dominating you physically.
When Taylor was on the field something astonishing was bound to happen, a pick, big hit, fumble, something was happening when #26 stepped in between the lines. No matter the game, weather, day or team Taylor was showing up. If you saw that fire colored visor coming at you, something bad was about to happen.
A true freshman for the 2001 National Championship team, Taylor filled Ed Reed’s shoes nicely in 2002. He was first team in the BIG EAST, third in team tackles, had four interceptions & returned a punt for a touchdown. He was born to play football, it was like he knew what every play the other team was going to run and where the ball was going to be always.
In 2003, Taylor went into savage mode and laid out one of the best highlight tapes of all time. May he forever rest easy.
1. Al Blades Sr. (1996-2000)
This was an extremely difficult list to make. Another Cane that passed away, rest in peace Al Blades Sr. Although there isn't much footage and pictures of safety Al Blades Sr. that I can use for this selection, the video above should show you how much of a “dog” this man was.
Born in Plantation, FL, Al Sr. and the Blades family have left a long legacy in the University of Miami. WR Brian Blades, S Bennie Blades played at Miami before him, and now his son Al Blades Jr. is a defensive back for UM.
Like I said, a very difficult list to make and especially took some time debating for number one. I’ve watched this video of Blades leading the Canes out of the tunnel many times and to me it’s one of the most badass things I’ve ever seen. Blades just didn't care [about his opponents]; he took the field to completely dominate every aspect of the game. Listen and get amped up because nobody did it like Al Blades. “Hold your heads up high, The Mighty Canes are passin’ by, from north to south we really knock’em out.” (NSFW audio)
- LB Michael Pinckney (2016-2019) - Currently one of the most fierce linebackers in the nation and is just a “dog.” From Jacksonville, FL one of my favorite players on the team, he brings the swagger, the leadership and can take charge of the defense with his actions and his vocals. When he gets that chain he sets out a different vibe and gets the defense going.
- TE Jeremy Shockey (1999-2001) - The 6’6” tight end from Ada, Oklahoma that came out of nowhere and gave Miami some extra juice during his time here. Big 88 had an attitude in him that other teams hated. In 2001 he earned First-Team BIG EAST and First-Team All American and of course helping out Ken Dorsey with that 2001 ring.
- WR Santana Moss (1997-2000) - The undersized wideout had a fierce attitude that showed up every Saturday. At only 5’10 and 180 lbs, Moss did not care. He broke Michael Irvin’s record for most receiving yards with 2,546, finished his senior season with 1,604 all purpose yards and First-Team BIG EAST. Big time players step up in big games.
- WR Andre Johnson (1999-2002) - Born and raised in Miami, FL this tall-framed 6’3”, 230 lbs. receiver was not one to mess with. Johnson was a beast when it came to winning one–on–one matchups. When I say beast I mean Dorsey didn't think twice when it came to man coverage. Blowing up the national headlines in his sophomore season he would go on to help carry the Miami Hurricanes for that ring in 2001. His highlight tape is insane and everything you look for in a wide receiver. A “dog.”
- DT Vince Wilfork (2001-2003) - I debated putting Big Vince, Jerome Brown or Warren Sapp on this list. I ended up choosing Sapp, but you can't go wrong with any of these guys. The big body defensive tackle was a force to be reckon with. His quickness at his size was something out of a video game. Born in Boynton Beach, FL Wilfork went on to be arguably one of the best defensive tackles of all time.
- DT Gerald Willis (2016-2018) - A recent graduate that went undrafted by the Baltimore Ravens. Standing at 6’4 and 300 lbs. Willis absolutely shined his junior year at Miami and the fans loved it. Starting all 12 games, he delivered dominance every game, leading the nation with 18 tackles for loss — the most TFLs since Calais Campbell in 2006. There was something about him when that turnover chain went on him. When he stepped on the same field as Florida State that “dog” in him came out and put on one hell of a show.