The Men Behind the U: Great ‘Canes Leaders Part 4
~ co-authored by Mitch Kamerman ~
“Attitude reflects leadership”
Julius, Remember the Titans
For the final installment in this series, we look at the top leaders from the 1979-1983 era. These men were truly the pioneers of the modern era of Miami Hurricanes football, the men who helped turn the ‘Canes around to capture that first ring. You can say the attitude of that first national championship team reflected the leaders on the field with the men described below, but it without a doubt began with Howard Schnellenberger, the architect of modern Hurricane football. Below are some of the legends Schnellengberger brought to, and developed at, the _.
As Bernie Kosar’s go-to guy, Brown was the starting wide receiver for the 1983 National Champion Miami Hurricanes. In 1984, Brown was named as a consensus first-team All-American and was the first WR in UM history to amass over 1,000 yards receiving. During his career with the ‘Canes, Brown set records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. As the 13th pick overall in the 1985 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, Brown played from them from 1985 – 1991 and set franchise records during his tenure. In 1985, Brown was selected as NFL Rookie of the Year. He also led the Bengals to a Super Bowl championship and earned a Pro Bowl appearance in 1988. Below is his induction video for the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame with more information and highlights:
Jim Burt played for the ‘Canes from 1978-1980 and was a force on the defensive line throughout his career. Called one of the key leaders responsible for the turaround of Hurricanes football by Schnellenberger, Burt is still holds UM records today. Burt held the UM all-time record for total tackles by a middle guard at 177 and assists by a middle guard with 86, and continues to hold the school record for fumbles recovered in a single game with four vs Vanderbilt on November 15, 1980. After being named the 1981 Peach Bowl Most Valuable Player (Defense) and being selected as a member of the All-South Independent team by the Associated Press, Jim signed as a free agent with the New York Giants where he won a Super Bowl ring and later played for the San Francisco 49er’s where he won a second Super Bowl ring. He was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and the video showcasing his highlights is below.
Alonzo Highsmith was an explosive fullback and an offensive leader for the University of Miami from 1983 to 1986. As one of the top running backs ever at Miami, Highsmith was a complete player who ran, blocked and caught passes with equal skill and determination. Highsmith finished his UM career with 1,914 yards, ranking third in school history and 2,935 all-purpose yards, the fifth highest total for a Hurricane. He also scored 25 career touchdowns, tied for fourth place all-time at UM. Originally from Miami, the former Columbus High School defensive standout recorded five 100-yard rushing games, tying for the second highest total in ‘Canes history. Looked up to by his peers on and off the field, Highsmith began his career rushing for a team high 50 yards and one touchdown in the 1984 Orange Bowl Classic as Miami captured its first national championship. Highsmith is also famous for the words spoken at the 50 yard line in the 1986 coin toss against Oklahoma. Now, truly showing that the _ is all about family, he is the father of one of UM’s current quarterback’s, AJ Highsmith. Below is Alonzo’s UM Sports Hall of Fame induction video detailing more highlights from his career.
Jim Kelly began the quarterback tradition at Miami that led the University to be known as “Quarterback U.” Indeed, the names are almost as one: Kelly-Kosar-Testaverde-Walsh-Erickson-Torretta. Kelly also was at the helm for perhaps two of the most significant games upset victories in UM history, beginning a turnaround that made Miami the most successful team in college football during the 1980’s.
Originally recruited to Penn State as a linebacker, as a 19-year-old freshman Kelly returned to his home state and made his first college start leading Miami to a 26-10 upset over the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. Two years later, the same No. 1 ranked Penn State came to the Orange Bowl where Kelly led the Hurricanes to a stunning 17-14 upset victory. That season Kelly earned MVP honors in Miami’s first bowl appearance in 14 years, the Peach Bowl. Kelly rewrote the Miami record books during his time at UM finishing his career with 406 completions in 646 attempts for 5,233 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Kelly went on to star with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, throwing for more than 5,000 yards in 1984, while earning league MVP honors. He moved to the Buffalo Bills in 1986 and rewrote their record books, leading the team to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances and named to the NFL Pro Bowl 5 times. Kelly was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UM Ring of Honor in 2008. Below is his acceptance speech for the NFL Hall of Fame in 2002.
Like Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar was instrumental in the University of Miami becoming known as “Quarterback U.” Perhaps best remembered for leading Miami to its first national championship as a redshirt freshman in 1983, Kosar threw for 5,971 yards and 40 touchdowns as quarterback in 1983 and 1984. Although Kosar only played two seasons, he left UM holding school records for career passes completed, passing yards, total offense and touchdown passes thrown, all since eclipsed, but still holds the record for career passing completion percentage.
Kosar was also named MVP for his 300-yard passing performance in the Hurricanes 31-30 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 1984 Orange Bowl Classic. In the NFL, Kosar set a league record by throwing 308 consecutive passes without an interception while playing for the Browns. Kosar currently sits on the Board of Trustees at the University of Miami and is a consultant for the Browns. Below is his induction video for the UM Sports Hall of Fame describing more of his accomplishments.
Thank you to all of the players, coaches, and fans that have helped us all make memories that will last a lifetime. We hope you enjoyed this series and would like to end with this video, which we believe captures what it means to be a ‘Cane for life. With all of these great leaders behind the _, we can only look forward to what the future will bring and who will step up to be leaders for the next generation of ‘Canes fans.