Playing a sport at a division-one level is already a huge accomplishment. Monday night, University of Miami student-athletes proved that their talents go beyond the fields, courts and classrooms. Instead, they shined in a different type of competition: a talent show.
Tonye Jekiri may be known for being the ACC’s leading rebounder this season, but this basketball player can also dance and lip-synch. Fullback Walter Tucker may be known for his outstanding blocks, but this junior also has some killer dance moves. Hurricanes punter and kicker Ryan Holowesko not only can play the piano, but he also writes his own original songs.
And it was all for a good cause. The first ever Miami student-athlete talent show, Canes on Stage, served as a fundraiser for the Debbie School in the pediatrics department of the Miller School of Medicine. The school helps children with disabilities.
Football, basketball, cross-country, track, swimming, volleyball and rowing were all represented in the show, which was standing room only in the SAC Grand Ballroom, with hundreds of people in attendance.
The winner of the competition, senior defensive back Nantambu-Akil Fentress, truly stole the show when he played the trombone, sang and performed spoken word poetry. He admitted that he actually doesn’t like to sing in public but his teammates in the crowd helped him get through it.
“Just seeing all those guys come in to support all of us, it gave me a little kick, tighten up, go out there, have fun and just enjoy,” Fentress said. “…I knew the squad was behind me, so I was like, let’s do it.”
While he said it felt good to win, that wasn’t the true purpose of the night.
“It was about the Debbie School, just showcasing the talent for the student population and our own peers and the student athlete population,” Fentress said. “I think it’s a good way of showing we are all just one student body.”
Shirelle Jackson, director of student-athlete development, couldn’t agree more with Fentress’ takeaway.
“I was so proud of our student-athletes and how they came together,” Jackson said. “I just want to do everything that I can to let them know that they really can do anything that they put their mind to.”
Jackson feels that with the practice and game schedules the athletes have, a lot of them are sequestered from their peers and normal campus life.
“Any time that we have a chance to bridge that gap that we have between our student-athlete population and our other students across campus in a fun, creative and cool way, I figured why not try,” Jackson said.
Jekiri said he loved being in that type of environment.
“It was fantastic. Everyone sacrificed their time to come here and support. And this is the kind of event that we want to be doing in this school to bring fans together and make everybody connect with each other, and it was great,” he said.