Cleveland Gary: Then and Now

Cleveland Gary earned first team All-America honors for the Hurricanes in 1988 when he led the team in both rushing and receiving. His 57 receptions that year still lead all Hurricane running backs to this day. Gary went on to be a first round draft choice by the Los Angeles Rams. We caught up with him recently to talk about the past, present and future of Cleveland Gary.

What are the specifics behind your transfer from Georgia to Miami after your freshman year?

Actually I had been one of the top recruits in the nation and it had boiled down to Miami and Georgia. I chose Georgia only because in high school I was used to running in the I-formation and they threw me the ball with swing passes out of the backfield and what have you and I felt my chances of winning the Heisman Trophy would be better at Georgia. After arriving at the University of Georgia I discovered that another Parade All-American was there in Lars Tate, which didn't bother me because I was clearly the better back and I proved it. They gave him the nod to start. We rotated pretty much but they gave him the nod to start. That didn't rest well with me because he was not in my league. Eventually he was not getting it done and players starting complaining big time because in practice I'm breaking the long runs and making it happen and the running backs coach just was not fair in my opinion. I think he had a lot to do with it but the bottom line I got the nod because Tate played so horrible. He played so horrible until he had no choice but to give the other freshman a shot. I come in the game against Clemson and the first carry from scrimmage I go 18 yards. One slipped tackle and I would have gone 80. I will never forget that play but when it was all said and done I had 101 yards against Clemson and we defeated them. I won the job and came back against Ole Miss and rushed for 102 yards against them so there was no question that the game was fun and I knew I could win the Heisman. I went to Georgia for that purpose (laughing) and to win a National Championship of course. It did not work out; I injured my arch very badly. I actually tore it. He got the position back by forfeiture basically and I got my foot well and took the position back going into the Citrus Bowl. The day before the game I developed a hip pointer so it was an injury plagued freshman season for me. On top of that I came into the next year thinking they were not going to be fair because one thing I enjoy doing is running the football and I wasn't going to be sitting on the bench, anybody's bench. I had proven that I could play at a high level and play at a high level well. So I ended up telling some of my best friends, my teammates, ‘you know guys I'm leaving, I'm getting out of here and going to transfer and go somewhere, hopefully Miami.' The coaches got wind of this and they were freaking out. ‘You can't leave, you can't go.' I said ‘yea right, I'm going' and I called my folks and [the coaches] were like on me and hounding me. To make a long story short I called my family and my uncle Freddy called Coach Dooley because they didn't want to give me my release form so I ended up getting it after my family put a lot of pressure on him. He was like ‘players don't transfer, they don't make it, you're going to be inactive for a year, you're going to fail.' I leave the University of Georgia and my uncle happened to call the University of Miami before any school got the gist of this. I didn't want to go through that recruiting process again at all. My uncle happened to call the University of Miami early one morning and Jimmy Johnson just happened to be the one to answer the phone. He just made a call and Jimmy happened to pick up the phone, it was a coincidence. He just happened to call that morning and Jimmy happened to be the first one in the Hecht Center and picked up the phone. There was no going through a secretary or anything, just a coincidence. Jimmy said, ‘great, we'd love to have him, bring him in'. I was there that afternoon and became a Hurricane.

How well do you keep up with the Miami currently?

I've been so busy that I follow the program on TV exclusively. I love the Hurricanes and I'm going to get back involved but I've been so tied up in my business ventures and with my family but I feel UM is also a family so I'm going to get back involved. I just want to be active again because I miss it and that's what it is all about.

What similarities and differences do you see in the program 15 years later?

I see a lot of similarities. I know that our era was the era that sparked the whole persona or genre of the winning tradition that has escalated thus far at the University of Miami. I think what builds that program is the great coaches. Obviously Howard Schnellenberger set the foundation from what I gathered and Jimmy Johnson drove it home. Coaches have pretty much set the foundation there now. Not taking anything away from a coach's ability to coach but they have great players there and great players make great teams. Great players can make a coach great. A coach can certainly add but you have to have great talent. They have some of the best and most talented athletes in America.

What was it like playing for Jimmy Johnson after your experience at Georgia?

I like Jimmy because we saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things and we got along very well. I was very fortunate and blessed by God to be a great athlete and I was a producer. I made things happen and it was exciting and I think that is what pulled his chain. Jimmy is a guy to get along with from a coach and player perspective when you are productive. Really that is the bottom line. Aside from that he is a good person but our relationship was a coach and player relationship. That is what you are there for and on top of that it build into a friendship because you're around each other on a daily basis. He is a great coach and a student of the game and he is hungry and loves to win. He is very humorous too. He loves to have fun and gets along great with his players. He is a down to earth coach, which is basically a player's coach.

What are you up to now?

I'm into business ventures and building value in business enterprises of my interest. I run Vista Holdings. I was a business major and am heavily involved in the financial world. I'm trying to build value in a variety of business ventures. I'm also involved in come charitable events for kids and things of that nature. There is a possibility I may go to law school. I've been accepted to law school and may do it this fall. That is basically it besides my time with my children.

Canes Time Top Stories