When I think back to the Miami Hurricanes of the past 30 years, I reflect on a few things.
I think of the athleticism of Sean Taylor, quite possibly the greatest mosaic of football skill ever to appear on a college campus.
I think of the “us-against-the-world” attitude that led to the swagger that defined the ‘Canes.
I think of players like Ken Dorsey and Michael Irvin, who seemed capable of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat almost on command.
But above all else, I think of leadership.
Too often in college football, people expect the void in leadership to be filled by the superstars. Lately, players have become superstars while they are still in high school. No longer is it enough for a player to come in and find his niche in the program. A player’s rating on an Internet recruiting site seems to shape people’s expectations of that player’s potential. The higher the rating, the more immediate the player’s contributions are expected to be. Players like Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman fit this description. As superstar recruits, they were expected to fill the leadership void.
Somewhere in this shuffle, many fans lost sight of the fact that most leaders are not the ones that come into the program with hype. In no program is that more evident than the University of Miami. The great leaders of this program have never been the guys that come from the high school spotlight.
Jonathan Vilma was recruited by one Ivy League school for football. He chose UM, his only other offer. Dan Morgan was an undersized, slow-footed fullback when he arrived at UM. Ed Reed’s only other scholarship offers were from Louisiana-Monroe and Tulane. Jeremy Shockey, Bryant McKinnie and Jerome McDougal all came from junior colleges.
Our main competitors in the recruitment of McKinnie, who never gave up a collegiate sack, were marching band directors throughout the country.
Ray Lewis did not get a scholarship offer until the August before his freshman season.
I could continue this list for hours.
All of these players were All-Americans. None was even on the recruiting radar of the big boys of college football.
The current team reflects this as well. Junior Calais Campbell was a skinny tight end recruit from Colorado. Sophomore Chavez Grant was not ranked by any of the recruiting sites. Sophomore Colin McCarthy ranked only three stars. All three are leaders of the current team. None came with the hype that many would expect from players who produce the way they do.
The point is that star ratings do not make a leader and do not make a team. Leadership has to come from the players, or it does not matter. No matter how great a coach Randy Shannon proves to be, without on-field leadership it will be for nothing. The types of players that will lead this team are the ones who have something to prove.
When analyzing this season’s roster, it is important to see top-end talent. It is important to see speed and athleticism.
The guys that play with a chip on their shoulder will be the ones who lead us back to the promised land.
Dan Stein may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.