2001 Miami Hurricanes make case for school soccer’s finest ever

Because the 2001 Miami Hurricanes celebrated a fifth nationwide championship within the Rose Bowl locker room 20 years in the past, not one particular person screamed, ‘GOAT!’ or thought they’d simply unlocked legendary standing.

Honestly, the gamers and coaches felt aid that they’d reached the purpose they set for themselves 12 months earlier. They have been so dialed in on profitable a nationwide championship, so centered on management, accountability and — as ridiculous because it sounds now — proving themselves that it turned inconceivable within the second to assign this crew a spot in faculty soccer lore.

It is just now, with the attitude of historical past and time that those that suited up in 2001 perceive — and brag about — what they achieved in a single magical season. It goes past the expertise, which speaks for itself: 38 NFL draft picks, together with 17 first-rounders and at the least one Corridor of Famer in Ed Reed. A stacked working again room, which featured Frank Gore because the No. 3 again. A stacked defensive backs room, with Sean Taylor and Antrel Rolle as backups. A stacked defensive position room, with Vince Wilfork as a backup, too.

“I am keen to line our 2001 crew up towards any collegiate establishment, anytime, wherever,” heart Brett Romberg mentioned. “I simply assume our psychological toughness was simply as spectacular as our bodily and athletic skill. We have been mentally pushed. If you’ve obtained guys which might be doing exercises, though it was hell on earth in July in 115 levels, such as you’re respiration via a sock, and switch round and simply do it once more for a teammate as a result of he wants assist, that is outstanding. We take a look at one another, like how the hell did we do that? It is virtually like that life does not exist. Prefer it was a fairy story.”

The controversy over the best crew in faculty soccer historical past won’t ever finish, and that’s certainly one of issues we love a lot about sports activities. In fact, Miami gamers are going to take up for their very own crew and scream from the rooftops that 2001 Miami is the GOAT. And I’m a agency believer in that crew, too.

I had a front-row seat because the Miami beat author for the South Florida Solar-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that season. I grew up in South Florida, and watched the earlier 4 Miami nationwide champions intently. I went to the College of Florida, the place as a freshman in 1995, the Nebraska Cornhuskers staked their declare to the greatest-of-all-time throne after dismantling the Gators within the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. I nonetheless have visions of Tommie Frazier leaving Gator defenders in his wake.

I’ve lined extra nationwide champions since 2001 Miami that would make their very own declare, too.

This previous January, I sat within the press field at Laborious Rock Stadium in essentially the most weird setting for a nationwide championship recreation, due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the sphere in entrance of me, Alabama beat down Ohio State to shut a 13-0 season with three Heisman Trophy finalists on offense — together with winner DeVonta Smith. Given all of the challenges related to the 2020 season, the Crimson Tide might simply make their case.

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So can 2016 Clemson, a crew I lined all through the season as an ACC reporter. I’ll always remember standing on the purpose line at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, when Deshaun Watson threw the profitable 2-yard landing go to Hunter Renfrow to beat Alabama 35-31 and end 15-0.

How about 2013 Florida State, a crew so loaded with expertise all 22 of its offensive and defensive starters that 12 months ended up on an NFL roster? I helped cowl that crew, too.

However I stay keen on 2001 Miami, and I’ll let former Miami linebacker Jon Vilma clarify why. Vilma obtained right into a debate a number of years in the past with former USC working again Reggie Bush when the 2 performed for the New Orleans Saints.

Vilma performed for the 2001 Hurricanes; Bush performed for the 2004 Trojans, broadly thought to be two of essentially the most gifted groups ever assembled.

“They have been actually good, however I advised Reggie, ‘Yeah, you guys have been quick and athletic, and we have been equally quick and athletic,” Vilma recalled not too long ago. “I mentioned, ‘Our distinction is, we have been gonna attempt to outhit you.’ We weren’t attempting to take a seat right here and showcase how briskly and athletic we have been. We have been attempting to showcase how powerful we have been.

“We had that mentality of, ‘You might get a run, however I promise you for the following 60 minutes, we’re gonna kick your ass. You might win one, however we’re gonna win 20 of them, and it isn’t gonna cease.'”

That drive begins with the place this crew began: in 1997, when Miami was at its lowest level as a soccer program, within the midst of NCAA sanctions that diminished its scholarship complete to fifteen in that signing class.

“We felt like we could not miss on anybody in recruiting,” mentioned Andreu Swasey, who was the energy and conditioning coach at Miami in 2001. “Since you’re attempting to recruit the muse of what is to come back for the following 4 years. We have been actually dialed in on character, on persona traits, do they love soccer? We knew a child might run and be athletic and we had the blueprint for that. It was the opposite intangibles we have been on the lookout for.”

They signed gamers similar to two-star security Ed Reed, out of Louisiana, and Joaquin Gonzalez, an under-the-radar offensive lineman from Miami, and missed junior faculty transfers similar to Jeremy Shockey and Bryant McKinnie. Within the courses that adopted, they signed different gamers who continuously felt the necessity to show they belonged, together with Vilma. Quickly, that complete mentality took maintain throughout your entire crew.

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Ask Reed about that 2001 crew, and he begins not with the championship however with the management that drive created.

“We actually had leaders on that crew, and I do not assume that may be matched,” Reed mentioned. “I imply, soccer, no query, I do not assume anyone in faculty soccer might play with us. No crew previous that is been right here [at Miami]. And I’ve debated that, and it is like, ‘Yeah, no matter, you possibly can discuss.’ However we have been fruits of what they’d performed. We watched that, perfected that. Actually perfected that.”

As a lot because the 2001 crew has been glorified within the years because it gained the nationwide title, the Hurricanes opened the 12 months ranked No. 2 behind Florida — the crew they dismantled within the Sugar Bowl to shut out the 2000 season. That served as motivation. As did what occurred in October, when Miami — ranked No. 1 in each polls — was sitting at No. 4 within the Bowl Championship Sequence standings. The identical standings that saved Miami out of the 2000 nationwide championship recreation.

In an article I wrote within the South Florida Solar-Sentinel that October, quarterback Ken Dorsey mentioned, “Folks across the nation do not actually respect our expertise or our capabilities as a crew. It looks like that yearly. It is nothing new to us. It is one thing we’re used to taking part in with is that lack of respect. It offers us additional incentive to exit and carry out effectively each week.”

Think about that, a crew with 38 future NFL picks feeling disrespected. However that goes to the bigger level: The main focus was not on their expertise, however on gaining the respect these gamers felt had been denied to them going again to highschool.

There are vivid moments that stand out to me that season. The gamers and coaches, initially, have been accessible. The leaders on that crew have been their finest representatives — doing all interviews requested of them. Again then, we had availabilities 3 times per week with gamers, an open locker room after video games and entry to apply, too.

That openness allowed us to really get to know the gamers and coaches, and develop a rapport with them, so we might inform their tales in a deeper method — and share a good narrative because the season unfolded. No person was too “large time” for something. We might see with our personal eyes what made that crew go.

Although Miami dominated almost each crew it performed, it needed to survive an in depth one at Boston College in November. It was chilly. The offense was horrible. Dorsey threw 4 interceptions. Miami had zero touchdowns. All I might assume as I appeared on from the press field was, “I am unable to imagine they’re about to blow this,” figuring out full effectively a visit to the nationwide championship and the Rose Bowl was on the road.

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However the protection got here via, as Mike Rumph, Matt Walters and Reed mixed to avoid wasting the day with some of the iconic performs in Miami historical past — a Walters interception, deflected off Rumph’s knee, that ended up in Reed’s arms for the defensive rating. Folks at all times say the good groups have to beat a scare alongside the best way. That was it for Miami.

What I bear in mind most, although, is the sheer dominance. The way in which Miami broke the desire of Syracuse and Washington in back-to-back video games, outscoring them by a mixed 124-7. Syracuse and Washington weren’t precisely nobodies. Each groups have been ranked within the high 15 on the time they performed. Washington had crushed Miami the 12 months earlier than, however in 2001, it appeared as if the Huskies wished to be wherever however taking part in in prime time within the Orange Bowl because the Hurricanes gleefully saved their foot on the gasoline to show some extent.

“These guys weren’t simply NFL gamers. They have been All-Professional NFL gamers,” mentioned Rick Neuheisel, who was Washington coach on the time. “This was taking place within the BCS period, so nobody actually had an edge from a Faculty Soccer Playoff perspective that each one the good expertise goes to go to these contributors, which is type of what is going on on with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State proper now. Miami did not have that edge. They simply accrued so many good gamers that everyone was taking a look at them as like, ‘How have they performed this?'”

Added former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni: “That crew was so gifted, so explosive, so good on protection. They beat us 59-0 and we completed that season with 10 wins. So I feel that describes how good they have been.”

Then there was the primary half towards Nebraska within the BCS nationwide championship recreation, during which Miami made the Cornhuskers appear like a sluggish yard crew with no enterprise being on the massive stage. The Hurricanes led 34-0 at halftime and will have simply gained 59-0 had they determined to play their starters the vast majority of the second half. As a substitute, they performed their backups and gained 37-14, a rating that doesn’t mirror the sheer dominance of that recreation.

Or that crew.

So I proceed to stay with Miami as the best crew of all time. However within the second, as I wrote my recap of that recreation in January 2002, I used to be very very similar to the gamers.

In my recreation story, headlined “UM-BELIEVABLE!” there was no point out of GOATs or legacies, just one line at the bottom that famous: “This UM crew has joined elite firm.”

Little did I do know that one line would tackle a much more highly effective that means within the years to come back.

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