October 25th 2014
Always ready to have a good time, Megan (my wife, Happy Anniversary) and her family find a way to celebrate everyone’s birthday, despite the fact that it is a HUGE family. This day was no different. In Sunrise, we packed ourselves, and everyone's cooler, into her uncles house. Just a couple of nights before we had celebrated a victory over Virginia Tech. Back at, we gladly were doing it all over again for our cousins birthday. Family, drinks, cookie cake. Check, Check and Check. No one had noticed that Megan’s uncle had disappeared for a phone call, but when he returned, pale faced, it was clear something was wrong. He called his wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law into the garage to talk. As everyone waited for them to return, a scream of agony rang out from the garage. My wife ran to check on it, only to find out, to our collective horror, what had happened. Her father, Clint, recently a new resident of San Diego, passed away due to a heart attack.
He was a great Canes fan, but a better father. I remember being scared out of my mind to meet him when Megan first brought me home, but we ended up bonding quickly over sports. Through the years,he became a great friend and someone I looked up to as a second father. Even though he lived, funny enough, in my home town of Pittsburgh, we talked after every Canes game, debating there every move. For as much of a fan I am of Miami, he was that and much more.
October 27th 2015
One year later, nearly to the day, the Canes experienced a week to forget. The Saturday prior, they experience their worst loss EVER, in a 58-0 demolition by eventual ACC champion and College Football player Runner-Up Clemson. It was the following days, unfortunately, that would hold the worst loss of the season. Early that Tuesday, Dana Smith, mother of Artie Burns, suffered a heart attack and passed away. Nearly a year after the passing of my father-in-law, another one of our own was lost under similar circumstances. A Miami Northwestern track star, Dana Smith was an immensely proud mother to her boys, and a mother figure to former Canes like Deon Bush and Dallas Crawford.
Another heart breaking loss to the Miami Hurricanes family had the team reeling. First the loss to Clemson, then the firing of Head Coach Al Golden, now this.
The team, now led by interim coach Larry Scott, who today is the Head Coach at Howard University, galvanized behind Artie Burns. They looked to lead him through the coming months of grief, as HE looked now to care for his brothers while trying to finish out a season before he would declare for the NFL Draft. Lifted by his teams support, Burns was there for practice the very next day, boosting his team with his presence a day after a massive blow. He confirmed he would travel for their next game, versus Duke, a game that would prove to be one for the ages.
Halloween Night - 2015
We scurried through the neighborhood for my daughters first year of Halloween, hitting as many houses as possible to get back in time for kick off. Fortunately, two year olds have a very limited range when cranky, so we had no trouble returning in time for the away game versus Duke.
At the same house as before, the uncle-in-laws tucked away in Sunrise, we watched a game that many an expert, and Canes fan, were ready to right off as a loss. Another blow had come to the Canes during the week that was. Brad Kaaya, leader of the Canes offense and eventual record setting quarterback, was knocked out of the Clemson game after being sandwich by two Clemson defenders. The hit was felt a week later as the Hurricanes were left to field a team with then freshman Malik Rosier as its starting QB. The week prior Rosier went 7-of-22 for 42 yards, throwing two interceptions and now was facing the number Nine scoring defense in the Duke Blue Devils. A 10 point favorite at home, the Blue Devils were in shape to continue the woeful week for a Canes team that had been hit HARD.
This game, however, started much differently than anticipated.
Malik Rosier, the freshman that started his career in rough fashion the week before, would begin the game 13-17 highlighted by an excellent pass and catch from Rosier to Herb Waters. The Canes added a sandlot touchdown before the end of the half when offensive lineman Sonny Odogwu hopped on a Walter Tucker fumble for a touchdown. The Canes, who had no business coming in hot, did just that with a 14-3 lead at half.
I remember feeling tense, because, when you love the Canes, you know that its never over, good and bad. Duke fought back to within 2 points in the third quarter and, behind the aide of multiple missed calls for the Canes and too many calls against the Canes, stormed back to a 27-24 lead.
Duke received some SERIOUS home cooking with two terrible pass interference calls, one on Artie Burns, during the fateful drive. Following the second was a touchdown that never should have been, when Thomas Sirk dove into the pile at the 1 yard line but was down at the half yard line. The officials, however, botched the call, giving Sirk the touchdown with 6 seconds left in the game.
Angels in the Outfield
At this point everyone in the house was standing and screaming at the TV, as we watched the game being stolen from us one bad call after the next. What we didn’t realize was that the heavens were about to pull the curtain back for one big Miami Miracle.
On the ensuing kickoff Miami hit for an EIGHT lateral, edge of your seat moment that broke the spirits of the Duke Blue Devils but raised them for the Canes. We all teetered back and forth with every lateral. When David Njoku hit the block, and Corn Elder hit the sideline, we exploded. Snug in the living room, we started shaking that house, and probably the neighborhood. As Corn crossed the finish line, mobbed by teammates, I can remember seeing tears, my own and others, while we jumped and screamed and ran through the house at what we had just seen. It felt as though those we had lost had given the Canes a BIG boost that night.
Pointing to the ceiling I knew that the Miami Miracle had been specially delivered, by a pair of Canes faithful that watched with us from seats perched on high. That night was a a moment of healing for players on that field and for fans in our house as we new we had witnessed something extraordinary. Knowing what it was and how Clint would have responded, was enough to elicit warm, powerful words and thoughts of a man gone much to soon.
The following year Artie would, ironically enough be drafted to my home team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. To this day the only Steelers jersey I own is a Burns #25, a gift from a wonderful woman, Lauri, grandmother to my two girls.
Memories of Clint and Dana kept them with us that night and long after to this day. It’s interesting to imagine the power a simple game can have on people. Mementos, games and specific days always elicit a special response when tied to someone we love and someone we miss. Even in this article, I feel blessed to leave a memory of someone that has impacted my life and many others in such an amazing way.
Clint, we miss you. You are always on our minds and you will forever, be a Cane.