As another decade of Miami football comes to end, it's time to reflect.
I began reminiscing over all the first round picks, pro bowlers and Super Bowl champions that have gone to school in Coral Gables. That led inevitably to looking ahead to the future of this group of players.
Randy Shannon has compiled three amazing recruiting classes. It's only a matter of time before we see a number of them playing on Sundays.
With all this restless energy surging through me I need a fix to settle down.
I've decided to take a look back at some of my favorite players who have transcended the college game while wearing orange, green and white; players who have then made the leap to the NFL and made me and fellow 'Canes fans/alumni/family damn proud.
The criteria for this all too short list is simple:
1. Players had to of been on a championship squad either in college or in the NFL.
2. Players had to be alive and playing when I was alive; this means I left off Hurricane greats and NFL Hall of Famer's Jim Otto and Ted Hendricks. Look, don't be offended. I know of their contributions to the sport but I actually got to witness the contributions of the guys on this list.
3. Overall Awesomeness. I believe this is self explanatory.
Again the list only contains ten players. I had to leave off a ton of UM all stars but if I'd put them all in, well, the internet just isn't big enough (I wallow deep in hyperbole when gushing over UM football; I apologize).
Andre Johnson was the 2003 first round pick of the Houston Texans.
He won a National Championship in 2001 with the likes of Ken Dorsey and Clinton Portis.
In six years as a pro he's amassed over 6,000 yards receiving and 33 touchdowns.
Impressive resume is it not? But you know what's even cooler?
He was also my high school classmate at Miami Senior High School.
I totally didn't know him at all. I watched him during football games and I witnessed his signing day with UM but that's about it.
I also went to school with Buffalo Bills and UM Alum Roscoe Parrish as well. I remember him throwing the ball, catching it, rushing it, punting it and kicking it.
I didn't know him in high school either.
Here's Andre making DB's look silly:
Clinton Portis won a National Championship in 2001 with the Hurricanes as the starting running back. What I find amazing is that his back ups were Frank Gore and Willis McGahee.
He also played with some guys named Jeremy Shockey, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Andre Johnson and perennial ball hawk Ed Reed.
It's no wonder some call the 2001 Miami Hurricanes the greatest college football team ever.
And it's not just the company he kept in college that makes Portis so special either.
Portis ranks fourth on the Hurricanes all time rushing list with 2,523 yards. In the NFL, between playing for the Broncos and the Redskins he's rushed for 9,202 yards.
So does anyone else think maybe the dumbest thing Butch Davis ever did was not draft his former RB and instead take first round bust William Green?
Here's a highlight reel to remind ol' Butch what he missed out on:
Ok, I flubbed my own rules here in Edgerrin James' inclusion on my list. He never won a title with the U and he's never won a Super Bowl, but really, he's a champion in my heart.
Wow, that was very Hallmark Channel of me, sorry.
But all jokes aside, I know some of you feel at least a little bad for Edge.
He leaves the 'Canes as their second leading rusher in history in 1999. Two year's later, Miami wins their fifth national championship.
He leaves the Colts as their all-time leading rusher with 9,226 yards at the end of the 2005 season. The Colts go on to win the Super Bowl in 2006.
Is it me or is Edge snake bitten?
Maybe I'm making too much of it, after all he's had a great career. A career I hope isn't over yet. I'd like to see a Super Bowl contender pick him up as a free agent before the season starts.
Here's a look back at his 10+ year career so far:
As fantastic a wideout as Reggie Wayne has been over the years, he's always struck me as a player who flew under the radar to the general public.
For a long time I felt that he wasn't getting his due credit; after all, he was a four year starter at UM with stats to rival Cane legends (2,510 yds, 20 TD's), Lamar Thomas and Michael Irvin.
Perhaps it was because when he was drafted by the Colts, so much of the focus was on Indy's version of the Cowboys Triplets: Manning, James and Harrison.
I waited for Wayne to have that breakout year and show the nation what we Miami fans already knew (I held the same notion for Devin Hester; I kept saying, just wait until Chicago sees what they have on their hands).
Reggie finally did have that season in 2004 when he had 77 grabs for over 1200 yards and 12 TD's.
Now he's the man in Indy with Marvin Harrison's sun setting on him.
Here's a snippet of what the world knows now that we knew a long time ago:
Before he was an NFL Network analyst and a nimble, 300-pound contestant on Dancing with the Stars, Warren Sapp was a man-beast with a hunger for quarterbacks.
Sapp had 96.5 sacks, second most in NFL history, won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played in seven consecutive pro bowls.
He was also tons of fun to watch.
The two images I chose for Warren Sapp personify the kind of player he was. Fun loving and joyful. Which is ironic considering what a destructive force Sapp was in the interior of the defensive line for the U and then in the NFL.
Can't you just see him dancing awkwardly after recovering a fumble and scoring a touchdown?
For years I looked forward to the Battle of the Bays: Packers vs. Buccaneers. He would smash Brett Favre in the face, turn around and laugh at a Favre joke and then smash him in the face again.
It was like a modern day version of The Honeymooners where Ralph Kramden actually makes good on sending Alice to the moon.
I'm glad Sapp left the game when he still had his dignity intact. He should call his buddy Brett.
Anyhow, here's No. 99 making a mess of the Rams offensive line and Marshall Faulk's body:
Ed Reed has been one of my favorite players, Hurricane or otherwise, since I first saw him in early 2000. He's arguably the best defensive back to ever play for Miami; that's tops over UM greats like Bennie Blades, Antrel Rolle and the late Sean Taylor.
But, not until I looked at his numbers, did it dawn on me on how amazing he actually is. As a Hurricane he set records for interceptions (21) interception return yards (389) and interception return TD's (5); In seven years as an NFL pro he's made 403 tackles and picked off the ball 43 times.
Ed Reed has a gravitational field emanating from his body. Errant throws by quarterbacks are his orbiting moons.
The all time interception leader, Paul Krause, the former Minnesota Viking great, currently holds the record for INT's with 81. Reed is halfway there. I think if he stays healthy, in another six or seven years, that record is his.
Reed hasn't won a Super Bowl yet but he's been a part of one of the NFL's elite defenses alongside UM Alum LB Ray Lewis for many years.
He did though, win a National Championship with the aforementioned 2001 squad. It's only a matter of time before he wins the big one with either the Ravens or some other fortunate club.
Here's a video of Reed playing centerfield and showing little boys and girls how to play superior pass defense:
Coming out of Miami after his Junior year, Ray Lewis had led the Big East in tackles for the previous two seasons.
He'd accumulated the fifth most tackles in UM history following in the footsteps of LB's Michael Barrow and Jesse Armstead.
Yet, he was the fourth LB taken in the 1996 NFL Draft after Kevin Hardy, John Mobley and Reggie Brown.
Ray Ray is the only one still playing today.
In those 13 seasons he's collected 10 Pro Bowl nods, two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP award.
Not bad for the fourth best LB of that draft.
The thing that impresses me and I think a majority of football fans is his ferocity. He's a tank with the speed of an SR-71 Blackbird.
I have two videos for Ray Ray. The first is a recent episode of Sports Science. Ray Lewis vs. a S.W.A.T. officers battering ram. I don't want to give away the ending but Ray Lewis wins.
Now I tried to find a clip of one my favorite Ray Lewis hits. He goes all Superman on Ricky Williams. He seems to fly across the field and punish him for daring to run the ball. But my search was to no avail.
So instead here's a best of 2008:
Here at this spot I could have very easily gone with Russell Maryland's team mate from the 1989 National Championship Miami Hurricanes and fellow DT, Cortez Kennedy, but I didn't for a few reasons.
A) Maryland played for Jimmy Johnson in the NFL and won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.
B) Cortez Kennedy played for the Seahawks. The only people who care about the Seahawks live in Seattle.
C) I met him.
Through a friend of my mom's, I go to go to his wedding shower when I was a kid. If I remember correctly, he was marrying my mother's, co-workers sister. It was an outdoor barbeque deal. It was hot and I didn't know anyone there aside from my mom.
And Russell Maryland.
Of course he didn't know who I was other than some little fat kid crashing his party. So when I sheepishly asked for his autograph at his private wedding shower, I felt like a jerk. When he kindly obliged, I was relieved. Not only because he was so cool about it but also because he didn't eat me. The man is huge.
In trying to stay consistent with the highlight video's I've been featuring at the end of each slide, I Googled "Russell Maryland highlights" and found virtually nothing.
The only worthwhile clips I dug up were from the 1991 Cotton Bowl in which Miami crushed the Texas Longhorns, 46-3. It was Maryland's final game as a Cane before moving on to the NFL.
At about 3:38 in, Maryland blows through the line and wrecks the QB. Good stuff.
Before there was Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Roscoe Parrish, Lamar Thomas or Santana Moss, there was Michael Irvin.
If anyone wants to call him a loud mouth, a bad boy, a drug addict or a showboater, that's their choice. I prefer to convey something much closer to the truth: Michael Irvin is the greatest Miami Hurricanes WR to play in the NFL.
In fact, "The Playmaker" could have had a different self appointed nickname that would have been equally fitting: The Winner.
While playing for the 'Canes, he set all sorts of records (that were eventually broken by the likes of Santana Moss but that's fine with me).
He helped Miami win the 1987 National Championship which took place versus the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
Irvin played 11 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys where he was a five time Pro Bowl selection and won three Super Bowls.
He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2007.
That to me is the record of man that wins.
And yes, I know he's made mistakes but I will defend him until the end. He's a dedicated Hurricane Alumni. He's frequently seen at UM practices and games helping players any way he can.
He was also the driving force that convinced Commissioner Roger Goodell to make it mandatory for all NFL rookies to make a trip to Canton and learn the history of the league they're entering.
Below is a highlight reel of the high flying Playmaker. The third member of the famed Cowboys Triplets (AIkman and Smith being the other two siblings).
In my humble opinion, Jim Kelly is the finest quarterback to play at the University of Miami.
He was also the one player in the NFL I rooted against even though I liked the guy but had no other choice.
See, the problem is that he played for the Buffalo Bills.
I, being both a Dolphins fan (my father's side) and a Cowboys fan (my mothers side), frequently found my favorite NFL teams battling the Bills all time passing yards leader.
Fortunately for me, my clubs were usually on the winning end.
Therefore, I hold no ill will towards Jim Kelly whatsoever. Truth be told, I have a soft spot in my heart for him. Right next to Edgerrin James.
That must be the reason I've broken my own qualifications for getting onto this list for a second time. Kelly never won a championship at either level of football.
Nonetheless, I respect and admire him greatly for laying the foundation at Miami in the early '80's for future championships.
The knock on him is that he went to four consecutive Super Bowls and never won...but he still made it to FOUR CONSECUTIVE Super Bowls. Seriously, shouldn't Tagliabue have given him a trophy just for that accomplishment? Not the Lombardi but maybe the Susan Lucci award for Best Effort?
Despite Jim Kelly never winning the big one, he did set every Buffalo Bills passing record, made the playoffs 8 of 11 years, won his division five straight years and was inducted into Canton in 2002.
And now, he's finally won something.
He's number one on my Top Ten list of Miami Hurricanes that make me boastful of the past and hopeful for the future.
Below is a clip from a 1989 game versus the Dolphins. In this one, Kelly gets the best of another legendary QB who should've walked away with at least one ring but instead retired with an unburdened hand: Dan Marino.