Growing up just outside of Philadelphia, most college football fans in the area followed either Penn State or Notre Dame. My dad grew up as a USC fan, but for some reason none of those schools ever peaked my interest. I vaguely remember Charles Woodson winning the Heisman, Peyton Manning leading Tennessee to a national title, and Florida State winning the following year (a little foreshadowing, it felt gross to me then). I also remember my dad walking around the house wearing a sweatshirt with a pelican-like bird wearing an orange sweater and a sailor hat. I would not understand the image on that shirt until the year 2000 as a 10-year old.
That year was my first full season following any college team. The colors from my dad’s sweatshirt caught my eye, the orange, green and white that I would later learn represented a Florida orange tree. From there, the unique uniforms peaked my interest further, but what solidified my fandom was the players. Everyone on the field had exceptional speed, and the swag was evident. My favorite Cane was Santana Moss because he had a cool name and the ability to take over a game with his electrifying plays. He cemented his legacy with a 7-catch 115-yard game to lead Miami over Florida State (my first taste of the rivalry) and provided the program with the iconic mantra, “big-time players make big-time plays in big games.” That season ended on a somber note, as Miami was left out of the national championship in favor of that same FSU team that the Canes beat months prior. The slight against the Big East champs would serve as a cliffhanger, however, as I became even more invested headed into the next season.
We all know how the 2001 season went (greatest team ever), and at the young age of 11, it was my first experience of following a team from start-to-finish en route to a championship. I watched every game by myself, but I felt that sense of community witnessing greatness. That investment continued during the 2002 season that ended in controversy, giving me somewhat of a 3-year crash course on what it meant to be a Canes fan: expecting excellence from a fun and talented team with passionate enemies.
In the years that followed, Miami football drifted away from their championship pedigree, but I was still allured by the mystique of a small program that regularly produced top-flight NFL players. Each year I grew older, I would gain more appreciation for all the other attributes of the school, including the amazing location and weather, the quality of the education, and the long list of non-football alumni. When it was time for me to apply for colleges, my dream school was set in stone. I wanted to be a Cane, no matter how farfetched it was for a kid from Norristown, PA to end up in Coral Gables, FL.
My parents weren’t on board with their youngest child heading 1000 miles away for 4 years, so I believed my dream would just remain a dream. Still, that dream inspired me to do whatever I could to get into a college that was Miami-like, so I was committed to achieving as much success as possible in the classroom as well as on the track (I was a sprinter at my public high school). After 4 years of good grades and athletic accolades, I found myself signing a letter of intent to run track at the University of Miami, and to this day it remains one of my proudest accomplishments. I fulfilled a dream 8 years in the making, and despite my track career not going as planned, being able to call myself a Miami Hurricane made me a fan for life. It no longer matters who’s coaching the football or basketball teams, or what players take the field, I’ll always cheer for the orange and green over anyone else.