U of L football should feel at home in Miami

MIAMI – The University of Louisville will play Florida International on Saturday night in what will be a home game for many of the Cardinals. U of L has 17 players from the Miami-area on the roster and more than a dozen more also from the Sunshine State. Check out Cardinal Authority.

The University of Louisville football staff has feasted off recruiting in the Miami-area since Charlie Strong was named head coach.

Strong and most of his staff have ties to South Florida and have signed 16 players from the Miami-area in three years. The Cardinals have 17 players from the area on the roster, including over a dozen more from the Sunshine State.

On Saturday, Strong and his staff get to show the Dade County folks just how those South Florida kids are playing for the Cardinals. U of L will play at Florida International on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

"A lot of people are excited about us coming back down there," said assistant coach Clint Hurtt, a former coach at the University of Miami. "We're trying to build some inroads there and we have done a good job with that.

"This gives all those high school coaches chance to come out and see."

U of L has always recruited the Sunshine State hard and has success under John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino. But Strong and staff have taken it to another level.

With so many athletes in the state, the Cardinals are reaping the rewards of landing some of the talent. At least seven of the Miami-area players are regular starters, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater is one of five players on the roster from Northwestern High School, while the Cardinals have players from six other schools in the area.

"We are trying to build a pipeline," Bridgewater said. "There are so many players down there. We hope to open the gates down there for guys to see what good doing here. We're all buying in as a family, it's not like it's a Miami thing or anything.

"But it's nice to have a lot of guys from down there here. It got started with guys like Nate Harris and Willie Williams, even though he wasn't here long. Coach Strong came in and is just doing a great job down there."

With a total of 33 players on the roster from Florida, the toughest part of the week for many was trying to find enough tickets for family and friends.

Senior center Mario Benavides joked that it was "annoying" to hear about all the Miami stuff and all the ticket deal.

"You can imagine, tickets," Benavides said. "If I go 10 minutes without being asked if I have tickets for the game then something wrong. These guys are very, very proud of where come from. I think it's exciting for them to go back."

Strong said he has stressed "this is a business trip," and those players can't get too caught up in trying to impress or see family and friends.

"The positive is going to be that the players' families will be there, so we feel like we're going to have little bit of a crowd," Strong said. "One of the issues can be that they'll all want to see them and be around them. I have some time blocked out for them to see their families, but this is a business trip.

"When we give them the time to visit with their families, they can go visit with them, but we have to get on with our business too."

It seems the players have listened to the warning.

"It's cool but just another game for me," Eli Rogers said. "We have been playing down there all our lives. We just have to do our work and get better."

Added Bridgewater: "We're going down to play football. It's not a vacation or anything like that. Our main goal is to win a football game and not worry about family. When this is your profession and your job, you have to make some sacrifices. I'd rather get the win and then we can maybe see our families."

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