The 48th annual University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet took place Thursday night at Jungle Island. Four hundred and fifty people welcomed seven former student-athletes and one former head coach into the UM Sports Hall of Fame. Will Allen, Megan Bradley-Rose, Charlie Hodgson, Joaquin Gonzalez, Tamara James, Jon Jay, Willis McGahee, and Kellen Winslow, Jr. made up the 2016 Induction Class. Jay and Gonzalez could not make the ceremony; Jay, who has spring training in Arizona, sent in a video of his speech, while Gonzalez will wait until next year to give his induction speech.
Basketball legend Tamara James was excited to share the night with some of her former classmates at UM, including Bradley-Rose, McGahee, and Winslow, Jr. “It’s surreal…I give God all the glory to be in this moment with such an amazing group of individuals at such a prestigious university.” She also got to share the special moment with her family, including her son, Dion.
Winslow, Jr. also brought his kids to the event, and, in his speech, talked about the impact football had on him as a child: “I look at my son here–he’s five years old right now, sitting right in the center right here. And that’s when my dream began, at that age.”
All the inductees touched on their love for the orange and green, but Hodgson, a former swim coach, gave an accurate depiction of how the colors run in his veins: “Every summer, I get a physical, and the nurse draws my blood. You can’t see it, but it’s there. Miami is in my blood.” The South Florida native displayed his passion for swimming by choosing not to finish his Master’s degree and instead pursue a coaching position. “It’s more important to do what you enjoy than it is to make money,” said Hodgson, who coached nine of the 11 swimmers previously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Bradley-Rose was proud to represent women’s tennis at the banquet. “The really nice thing about the University of Miami was that, even though football was such a powerhouse there, they definitely recognized the women athletes and women’s sports, and they gave us a ton of support,” she said. The tennis star was a two-time All-American, and is in the top 10 for career wins in UM history. Though her athletic resume is glowing with individual accolades, Bradley-Rose focused on the team effort. “My biggest concern all the time was that the team was doing well, and how I was doing to contribute to the team so that we could continue to improve.”
Allen was the first African-American to play basketball at the University of Miami. He began attending UM the same year as UM Sports Hall of Famer Ray Bellamy, the first African-American footballer player. “It was a turbulent time in 1967, of course… it was a few years after President [Lyndon] Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights legislation, and we had the War going on, so there were a lot of challenges there. At that time, a lot of things were culminating… I think there were some pressures, for both Ray and myself being the first, to walk a straighter line and figure out how to be accepted in the general population in the university.” Allen also had to worry about the university cutting the basketball program. Still, he holds the university to a high regard. Of all the awards, including being one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for his work in urban farming, being a Hall of Fame inductee is the highest honor he has ever received. “Everything I’ve learned here [at the University of Miami], I’ve been able to take into my professional life.”
Brad Kaaya was on hand to receive the Walter Kichefski Endowed Football Scholarship for his character on and off the field. The sophomore quarterback was grateful for the honor, and even shared a moment before the event with Winslow, Jr. “It means a lot just to see that former football players follow us current football players closely…It motivates us even more.”
Football Head Coach Mark Richt, who presented the award to Kaaya, talked about the days when Kichefski would visit the team back when Richt himself was a student-athlete: “When you see somebody who is passionate about their team and their alma mater, and still care years and years down the road, it just goes to show the young guys just how important this relationship is, and he taught me that as a player.”
McGahee had advice for current student-athletes looking to be in his shoes and wear the golden jacket one day: “Work hard. Get your education. Play hard. Let the world know your name. That’s all I can say.”
Feature photo courtesy UM Sports Hall of Fame.