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The Top 10 Hits in Hurricanes History: Who’s Tackle Top’s the List?

Football is a collision sport. So, let’s look at some of the most iconic collisions dealt out by Canes in the storied history of the program.

Rose Bowl X Getty Images archive

#10: Jon Beason vs Colorado, 2005

Miami matched up with Colorado in 2005 in the Orange Bowl. With only a couple minutes left in the game, Miami had the game well in hand and was winning in a blowout. Colorado was making a last ditch effort for some style points and ended up fumbling the ball, only for Leon Williams take the ball back 80 yards to the house. During the return Jon Beason was leading the way with Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt giving chase. Beason put an end to that quickly by back tracking and lifting Klatt up 10 feet off the ground as Williams trotted into the endzone. The refs threw a flag and called the hit unnecessary roughness, which was a complete bogus call that even the announcers said was a bad call. Regardless, this is one of the biggest/funniest hits I’ve ever seen. It’s not to often you see a man lifted off the ground like a rag doll like Beason did to Klatt. Joel Klatt still hates Miami until this day because of it. Oh well, hopefully Joel reads this article.

#9: Rashaun Jones vs Temple, 2005

Another hit from 2005 comes in at #9 on the list. Rashaun Jones might not be a recognizable name to most Canes fans as he was mostly a backup defensive back during his time at Miami, but he delivered one of the most vicious hits I’ve ever seen on Temple’s kick returner. Miami was winning in a route when Jones sprinted down the field at full speed and knocked the return man clean off his feet. Jones did not slow up at all and the return man did not see him coming off the right side. Jones knocked the returner on his back in approximately .05 milliseconds...I have to give props to the Temple returner for getting up after this one. The announcer described the hit as “just not fair”, couldn’t have said It better myself. Check out the hit below.

#8: Daryl Sharpton vs Clemson, 2010

You probably won’t find a more illegal hit than this one would be in today’s game. As Clemson’s Tight End turned up field, Safety Randy Phillips undercut him while Sharpton came from the side and leveled him in mid air. The Tight End’s helmet was knocked clean off and he did a complete 180 mid-air and was knocked out cold. I haven’t seen too many hits like this before. The craziest part of this is that no flag was throw on the play immediately after the hit. Goes to show you how much the rules have changed since then. Sharpton would have been escorted out of the stadium and put in a maximum security prison in solitary confinement if he did this in a 2021 football game.

#7: Ahmmon Richards vs FSU, 2017

The most recent hit on this list came in 2017 when Ahmmon Richards leveled FSU’s AJ Westbrook on a blindside block. Apparently there is a funny story behind this hit as well according to Richards, who just recently explained the play the other day on the CanesInsight podcast. He claims that earlier in the game he hit Westbrook in the back by accident when Westbrook turned his body away, causing the refs to throw a flag on the play. Westbrook told Richards after the play “hit me in the front next time” and Ahmmon gladly granted his wish. The next time they met, Malik Rosier was coasting toward the sideline with Westbook giving chase as Richards came down field and knocked Westbrook through the Doak Campbell grass before he could touch Rosier. The hit was clean and Westbrook was down for a number of minutes. The hit got the Miami crowd fired up and Miami desperately needed a mental edge to win this game to break the current win streak FSU had over them. Since this game, the Canes have won 4 straight over the Noles. Legend says Westbrook is still laying in that same spot at Doak Campbell. Check out the hit and Ahmmon explaining the play on the CanesInsight podcast below.

#6: Vince Wilfork vs FSU, 2003

This hit came in the 2004 Orange Bowl and it was the second time in the season Miami played FSU, with the Canes winning both times. Wilfork got a great jump off the ball and met Leon Washington with bad intentions in the backfield and the 6’2 330 pound Wilfork knocked the 5’8 Leon Washington back to Tallahassee. The hit helped spark the Canes defense and the Canes ended up winning a close one to become Orange Bowl champs. Out of all the great plays Wilfork made in his career, this one is by far the favorite amongst Miami fans, and probably funniest. Picture a 330 pound man who looks like he got shot out of a cannon hitting the smallest guy on the field.

#5: Brandon Meriweather vs Louisville, 2004

One of the best games ever played in the OB. The Canes found themselves in a giant hole as Louisville jumped out to a massive lead in this game. Late in the second quarter, Louisville’s tight end was coming across the middle for a pass, Meriweather read the QB’s eyes and timed up his hit perfectly as he threw his shoulder into the big tight end and knocked him clean on his ass as the ball flew out. The Orange Bowl crowd went nuts as the cocky Meriweather trotted across the field after he delivered the hit. This is one of my favorites being it came in such a huge game, and Meriweather was much smaller than the man he hit which made it more impressive. The Canes ended up winning the game 41-38 in one of the all-time great comebacks in UM history.

#4: Robert Bailey vs Texas, 1991

Believe it or not, there is actually a full story behind this hit. Fans who have watched The U 30 for 30 documentary (I assume you all have), probably already know the back story. Texas and Miami met up in the Cotton Bowl and both teams were feeling confident coming into the game with lots of trash talk pregame. Robert Bailey was having none of it. Before the opening kickoff, Bailey told teammates he was going to “knock the returner out on the first play of the game”. Sure enough, Bailey stormed down the field on the opening kickoff and destroyed the returner, knocking him out. That’s basically some movie type stuff that happened in real life. The game was pretty much over after one play, as Texas just watched their teammate get his clock cleaned on the very first play. Canes rolled over Texas 46-3 and won the Cotton Bowl.

#3: Jon Vilma vs Nebraska, 2002 Rose Bowl.

Rounding out the top 3 was difficult as any of them could have easily been #1. With only a couple ticks left in the 2002 Rose Bowl, Miami was well on their way to winning it’s 5th national title. Nebraska had the ball and ran a reverse to their WR who found some room around the corner and coasted up the sideline. Unfortunately for him, Jon Vilma was patiently waiting to greet him. Vilma squared up his body and completely stood up the Nebraska WR and knocked him clean back to the corn fields of Lincoln. The ball flew out and the Canes pounced on it as the Nebraska player lay on the Rose Bowl grass wondering what the hell just happened. The hit put a cap on the blowout win as the Canes coasted to a very easy win, solidifying them as the best college team ever essembled.

#2: Michael Barrow vs FSU, 1992

Coming in at #2 is the infamous Michael Barrow knockout on Florida State WR Tamarick Vanover. This was one of the hardest hitting Miami-FSU games in history with Barrow delivering the most bone-crushing hit of the game. Florida State tried to set up a screen and Tamarick Vanover trotted towards the middle of the defense only to be greeted violently by Barrow. Barrow read the play fast and quickly darted to where Vanover was running. The ball was thrown slightly high, which caused Vanover to jump in the air leaving him out to dry, and Barrow sent him to another galaxy. There were so many memorable plays during this low-scoring battle. The classic wide-right II game finished in a 19-16 score with the Canes obviously coming out victorious. The game had major implications on the national scene as Miami was ranked #2 and Florida State was ranked #3. Barrow’s massive hit during this classic contest between two bitter rivals cemented him in Miami fans minds forever.

#1: Sean Taylor vs FSU, 2002

I ran a small poll on twitter and the fans voted this hit the best hit in Canes history. I would agree with the end results. This hit is the best for 3 reasons; the time in the game in which this hit happened, the shock effect, and of course the player who made it happen. God rest his soul, Sean Taylor could have probably made this list 10 times, but no hit was better than when he layed out PK Sam in 2002. In a back and forth game, Miami just took a late lead in the game and FSU was looking to drive down the field again. PK Sam shot across the middle of the field as Chris Rix actually threw a nice pass through traffic for once. Sam gained control of the ball on what would have been a big gain and a first down for FSU, the problem for PK was that Sean Taylor wasn’t going to let that happen. Taylor struck Sam so hard that he did a complete 360 degree turn in the air as the ball flew out of his hands. The refs called the pass incomplete but many think that the play was a fumble, as it looked like Sam had complete control before he got hit. Regardless, this play was huge not only because of the hit, but it came at such a crucial time. It was third down deep into the 4th quarter and if FSU completed the pass they would have been in business to continue their drive. Instead, they had to punt and gave the ball back to the Canes. PK Sam was a good sport about the hit, quoted “My dad always told me just to keep my eyes on the ball, I don’t think my dad ever thought there would be a Sean Taylor back there.” It’s only right that one of Miami’s most beloved players tops the list. Rest In Paradise Sean Taylor.

Which hits were your favorite and which ones were left off the list that you would have put in the top 10 instead?