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Why I Became A Miami Hurricane: Marshall Thomas

From going to my first game in 2002 till now, the Hurricanes have always been a big part of my life.

FSU v Miami Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Growing up in Hollywood, Florida, football is apart of your life. There is nothing quite like football in South Florida, it’s a different kind of animal. As a kid, I remember bits and pieces of my father showing me Dallas Cowboys games and what not, he raised me to be a huge Dallas fan. Other than that, I can’t really remember watching any football games the first few years of my life. I know I watched hundreds of them with my father, I just have no recollection.

Then when I turned eight years old in 2002, my father took my brother and I to the Orange Bowl for the first time. It was the Miami Hurricanes against the Florida State Seminoles. I don't remember too much, I do recall how bloody hot it was that day in the OB, and how loud the crowd was. Little did I know at the time, I was witnessing one of the greatest games in Miami history. A few months later in January, my father sat me down, and he and I watched the 2003 Fiesta Bowl when the Canes played the Buckeyes of Ohio State. Because the game was played in Arizona it went on for hours, long past my bedtime. It was the first time in my life I remember watching a game from start to finish and being able to recall what was going on. I remember Willis McGahee’s knee injury, I remember some Canes player doing a backflip before the game, and I remember my father walking me back to my bedroom after Miami lost 31-24 in double-overtime, with me in tears.

Though neither my father or I saw it at that time, but a monster Hurricanes fan was born that night. It was like in the movie “Fever Pitch” after Jimmy Fallon goes to his first Red Sox game.

From that point on, I watched every single Miami game when fall would roll around. I would hideout in my parents bedroom by myself and watch the Canes as my father would bring me chicken wings from Rickey’s (real ones know) in Hollywood. I remember watching Sean Taylor run back an interception for a touchdown against Rutgers in 2003. I started going to games regularly in 2005, and I just fell in love with the Orange Bowl. There’s a certain smell that hovers over Hurricanes tailgates, and it’s still the same at Hard Rock Stadium, the mixture of cigar smoke, alcohol, barbecue and broken dreams. I was memorized with the “C-A-N-E-S” or “we got some Canes over here” chants. Going to Pro Player Stadium as a kid was nice, but just the noise and atmosphere of the OB, the seats with no backs, the horrendous bathrooms, the fact that you were parking your car in front of a strangers house, it was a special place. I feel so bad for the generations of Canes fans who won’t get to experience going to games at the Orange Bowl.

I was in attendance for the comeback against the Gators in 2003. I was there when Devin Hester went crazy against Duke in 2005, my father bought me a Hester jersey outside the OB right after that. Two of the greatest moments of my life, and this is no joke, was watching Darrell Langham beat Florida State in 2017, and then being there in person, on my birthday, to witness Miami come back from 27-7 to defeat the Noles again.

I can also look back on the sad moments, like when Brian Monroe dropped the field goal snap against Florida State in 2005. Or when LSU ran all over the Canes in 2018, I didn’t want to talk to anybody the rest of the night. I remember staying up late watching Miami lose to Georgia Tech in 2005 while my family and I were in Southern Utah for Thanksgiving. I recall all too well counting the days until the 2006 season, tailgating in the rain for the opening game against FSU, and that fall being the worst of my childhood. I remember wearing a brown paper bag on the bus to middle school that said “Fire Coker” after Miami lost to Va Tech in 2006. I mean if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll realize that I'm not the biggest fan of Kyle Wright.

And above all else, I remember the final game in the Orange Bowl against Virginia, and leaving at halftime with Miami down 31-0. Then a few months later, I attended the final event at the OB where they had former Canes and Dolphins come out, and I got to walk around on the field and I thought I was floating. Fast forward maybe a month after that, my family took a drive over to Little Havana on a Sunday, only to see the construction crews tear down that cathedral of football, it just didn’t seem right.

Though my family moved away from South Florida in 2008, my fan-hood and frankly obsession with the Canes has grown stronger by the year. No, I wasn’t fortunate enough (not smart enough) to attend UM, in fact, they rejected me when I applied, but I'm not holding it against them.

Yes I'm a fan of the Heat, the Cowboys and Marlins, but no other team brings out the passion and pride like the Hurricanes. To me, and to most UM fans out there, it’s more than just a football team, it’s a representation of where we grew up. There’s just something about The U, and throwing up The U, it just sends chills down your spine. No other school in America is like that, where it goes by a letter, when you throw up that U, you know who you’re talking about. There’s a certain connection you feel to UM growing up in either Broward or Dade County, that team is a part of who you are. When I was serving as a missionary for my church, they sent me to Tallahassee (what a coincidence) and I still threw up The U with pride in front of Chief Osceola.

Today, as I write about the Hurricanes, it’s been one of the greatest joys of my life. Yes I've had other experiences in journalism, but nothing has brought me more excitement than writing about my childhood team. Though today I approach it as both a journalist and a fan, the Canes will always be number one in the heart.