Just in case this is the first time you have read a “Mary Knows Football” article, in the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you I am an ardent Randy Shannon supporter. This belief in Coach has led me to coin the term “WWRSD,” kick someone out of my house for questioning Randy Shannon’s integrity, and beat my partner MiamiMike01 in a no-holds-barred orange and green jello shot grudge match for the privilege of writing this article. So, in short, this is not our typical coach profile. This is a tribute.
When you think of what it means to be a Miami Hurricane, many terms come to mind. After the obvious swagger, looking back through our history the winning tradition of the ‘Canes was built against all odds by hard work and an unwavering desire to win; succeed. Randy Shannon is the epitome of what it means to be a ‘Cane and is molding our current squad to the ways that have brought success to teams of the past and to him personally.
Hailing from Liberty City in Dade County and an alumni of Miami Norland High, Randy “The Onion” Shannon’s time in Miami started with years of tragedy followed by times of triumph. We know Coach’s background: At age 3, his father was murdered; his sister and two twin older brothers were addicted to drugs and eventually died from AIDS; he became a father at 16. Most people would use these events as an excuse to fail. However, Randy Shannon is not “most” people, and he has turned his life experiences into tools to make him more than just a great coach, but a role model inspiring and guiding the lives of the young men playing for the University of Miami. Who can relate to our players, give them real advice, and motivate them better than someone who has been there and reached the pinacle of success, his dream job, like Coach Shannon?
As a player at Miami, Shannon was a four-year letterman at linebacker and a starter on the 1987 national championship team. Described as a “film guru,” Shannon would study tape for hours and hours to learn the offensive tendencies of the opponents he faced each Saturday on the football field. His commitment to being a student of the game often paid huge dividends, such as on Sept. 5, 1987, in the Orange Bowl, when he returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown in the Hurricanes’ 31-4 romp over the Florida Gators. In 1988, Shannon received the Christopher Plumer Award for most inspirational player as a senior. He was described by his coaches as “a coach on the field.” Shannon concluded his career in 1988 when he ranked fourth on the team in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss, while leading the team in passes broken up and forced fumbles.
An 11th-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, Shannon became the first rookie to start at outside linebacker for Dallas since 1963 and was also a standout on special teams. Shannon played for the Cowboys for two seasons before going into coaching. Shannon began his coaching career at Miami as a graduate assistant in 1991 when the Hurricanes won their fourth national championship. In 1992 he became a full-time assistant coach working with the defensive line, and from 1993-97 he coached the team’s linebackers. He was a defensive assistant with the Miami Dolphins in 1998 and 1999 before assuming the role of linebackers coach in 2000.
Shannon returned to his alma mater in 2001 as defensive coordinator. That year, the Miami Hurricanes won their fifth national championship and he became the first UM coach to be named the winner of the Frank Broyles Award, presented annually to the nation’s top assistant coach. In 2007, Coach Shannon was named Head Coach. As a part of 3 of 5 of Miami’s national titles, Coach Shannon knows the ingredients necessary to build a national championship-caliber team.
But that’s not enough anymore, and it’s certainly not enough when you are coaching at the University of Miami. If someone on the ‘Canes football team so much as skips a class, our rivals are quick to throw out the “Thug U” moniker . . . while their players are strangling their girlfriends, stealing laptops, firing AK 47s at fellow students, getting arrested for drunk driving, assaulting someone in an art museum, robbing someone at gunpoint, flunking out of school, testing postive for drugs . . . the list goes on. Coach Shannon recognizes that double standard. He also, without a doubt, recognizes that he is the only African American coaching a major college football team, much less the most successful college football team of the modern era. Some would expect him to focus more on winning at all costs to keep his job at a place at Miami where one loss causes “fans” to cry for you to be replaced by Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell.
Yet, unlike just about every other coach of a major college football team, Shannon cares about his players off the field as well. As reported by Eye of the Hurricane in July before it was officially announced by the media, Randy Shannon’s ‘Canes appear at #3 on the most recent Academic Progress Report – the highest BCS team with such distinction. Oh, and there’s that whole 100% graduation rate award from last year. But who cares, right? Because we just want to win because we are ‘Canes! Well, I hate to break it to you, but the double-standard for being a ‘Cane is very real and our players can’t run around breaking every law in the books like the criminals in Trailerhassee and Jortsville. Coach Shannon knows this, recognizes he and his players are role models, and has this team gun-free, drug-free, making As in the classroom, and volunteering in the community.
But we forget what the team had become before Shannon took over. The 2005 beat down by LSU in the Peach Bowl. The stomping of the Louisville Cardinals’ logo only to be humiliated for our false bravado. The helmet-swinging FIU brawl. Off the field, Willie Cooper being shot, and Brandon Merriweather pulling a handgun from his pants and returning fire. Then, the death and unsolved murder of Bryan Pata. Enough was enough. It was time for someone to come in and clean house and rebuild our broken team from scratch.
Since that time, the team Coach Shannon has built since 2007 is the most talent-loaded version of the ‘Canes in nearly a decade. Shannon enters his fourth season at the helm of his alma mater’s program after leading the Hurricanes to a 9-4 overall mark with a 5-3 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference and an appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl in 2009. Along the journey, Miami knocked off three teams ranked in the Top 25 in its first four games, had nine players earn All-ACC postseason honors and saw its offense put up the most yards (5,199) since its national title contending 2002 team.
While we began seasons in the Shannon era secretly wondering whether we would lose to Marshall and Charleston Southern, these days our fans tell everyone who will listen how this team can win the National Championship this year. Because they can. Coach Shannon, through his magical recruiting ways and discipline of the players, has this team absolutely stocked in almost every position (ironically, the position Coach Shannon played for the ‘Canes is the biggest question mark) and ready to dominate any opponent. As EOTH blogger Captain Optimist recently said, with the right talent, Shannon turned our defense into a “Symphony of Destruction.” The talent is back, ‘Canes fans. Rest assured that we have the right man at the helm who knows what to do with it. After all, he’s a Miami Hurricane.
For more information on Coach Shannon, please check out www.hurricanesports.com and read the following 11-page article from Sports Illustrated writer Gary Smith. It almost redeems that infamous cover from years past. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/football/ncaa/09/04/shannon0910/index.html.