University of Miami football is 6-0 and has become a talking point nationally as the only undefeated team left in the ACC. But a new fad this season has garnered just as much attention as the team itself, sending fans and media into a craze.
It’s called the Turnover Chain.
This unique piece of gold jewelry made its first appearance in Miami’s season opener against Bethune-Cookman Sept. 2, and since then has gone viral, being featured on ESPN and Fox Sports. It’s used as a motivational tactic to pump up the team and fans when the Canes make a big play on defense.
The Canes started the trend this season. First, a defensive player recovers a turnover, such as a fumble or an interception. Then, as he comes off the field, one member of the coaching staff excitedly awards him the chain. The player gets to flaunt it on the sideline for the following possession.
The players love it – it sends the team into an all-out celebration.
The fans love it too – the Turnover Chain has received so much nationwide attention that Adidas made T-shirts featuring the chain.
However, despite the chain’s popularity, many still have questions about its origin.
AJ Machado, owner of AJ’s Jewelry in Cutler Bay, Florida, is the man behind the phenomenon. UM’s athletic department reached out to him over the summer with the special request of creating the chain.
“They called us and said, ‘We want to get something like when Alabama uses the wrestling belt after a big play,'” Machado said. “We want to get that swag back – we are Miami.”
The day Machado got the call to design the Turnover Chain, Vince Wilfork, a former Miami and NFL football star, stopped by the shop and influenced its design.
“Vince said, ‘AJ we have to go with the Cuban link,'” Machado said of the chain style. “That is what Miami is all about. I don’t care if you are in LA or any part of the world, it’s called the Miami-Cuban.”
And that’s when the chain was born, made of solid gold with a gem-encrusted “U” at the bottom. It weighs 2.5 kilograms and took over two weeks to make. Machado said he could not disclose the chain’s cost.
Machado, now known as the “King of Bling,” is no stranger to big-name projects – he is the go-to jeweler for more than 900 professional athletes. Many of the most popular players on TV can be seen on Machado’s “Bling of Honor,” the walls of his jewelry shop featuring dozens of pictures of him and the players who have purchased from the store. These star athletes include Floyd Mayweather Jr., LeBron James, Larry Fitzgerald and Odell Beckham Jr.
Machado’s jewelry business began in 1993 when he was 22. It took off from the start but didn’t have any athlete customers for the first four years.
That changed when former NFL running back Troy Davis, who grew up in the Miami area and played for the New Orleans Saints, came in and made a purchase. From there, talk of Machado’s business spread quickly through word-of-mouth between pro players.
The University of Miami has played a huge part in Machado’s success.
“It started a lot with the U – the U has been a blessing for us,” Machado said.
Many former UM football players, such as Clinton Portis and Andre Johnson, are repeat customers and have spread the news about AJ’s Jewelry both in college and in the NFL.
“In the locker rooms, I think they talk,” Machado said. “‘This is the jeweler – he is going to hook you up with good services and good quality. It’s really about reputation.”
And what a reputation he has built.
Machado said a key part of his business process with those in the sports world is building a relationship with each athlete. This is what separates him from other jewelers.
“I don’t just want to sell you a chain or a watch or a ring,” Machado said. “I like to have lunch – a little more building up that edge. I think that is what’s making us grow.”
He values relationships with his customers and will do whatever it takes to provide the best service possible. Machado gave an example of how he even flew an employee out to hand deliver a piece of jewelry for a wedding.
“In 24 hours, I’ve done wedding rings and bands,” he said. “I’ve flown over there. I’ve sent my son or one of my employees, and I flew him to Alabama or North Carolina. Whatever it is, we’ve gone the extra mile.”
Machado’s business has expanded throughout the NFL – with a total of about 800 clients – and nearly all the players know his name.
Despite making jewelry for so many athletes on so many teams, Machado’s heart is still with UM.
“Obviously, I have clients on every team and every university, but everyone knows I’m a UM fan – a die-hard UM fan,” Machado said.
When it comes to the Canes, Machado is always cheering on his team and hoping the chain is broken out.
“I’m such a big fan that I take it personally,” he said. “When they put that thing on, we are looking for a turnover.”
The electric atmosphere at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturdays proves that the Turnover Chain has not only brought extra passion to the players but to the fans as well.
“People are excited again about the U, which I feel we lost a few years back,” Machado said.