Lamar Thomas Q&A

It has already been a decade since Lamar Thomas suited up in the Orange and Green of the Miami Hurricanes. We caught up with him to see what he is doing and also what his thoughts are on the current state of the program. We also take a walk down memory lane and relive some of his stories from both games and the brutal practices at Greentree.

Talk about life after the Canes
I left in '92 and then went to the Buccaneers from 1993-1996 and then played for the Dolphins from 1997-2000 and then retired from the NFL. Right now I'm doing some work in radio and TV. I'm working with Channel 4 in Miami.

What are your plans for the future?
I'm just looking for bigger and better things. I've spoken to Chris Fowler about being a 4th on ESPN's crew. I also pester Paul Dee every chance I get to do some work at UM. I just love Miami and I'd love to help there if I could. I'm always around UM and I always try to say something good about them every chance I get.

How have things changed at the University of Miami since you left 10 years ago?
They have new facilities and everything but I'd say the jerseys stick out the most. We didn't have all the new jersey colors and styles they have now. A lot has changed, it is really growing there. On the field I think they compete but not like we did. We were violent out there and it was a war out there in practice for us. We really couldn't stand each other and I don't see that in practice with this team. Art Kehoe, Don Soldinger, Rob Chudzinski and Randy Shannon are still there so it isn't that different. The rules have changed though and you can't be as brash as we were out there. We were cocky and we worked so hard to be great. The attitude is just not the same, Butch came in and put the hammer down. It was for the best but it definitely took the swagger out of the program. His formula definitely had some positive though as you can see by the results they have had.

This team has been criticized at times for its lack of "killer instinct." How would you lead this team if you were back on the field?
I think it comes down to the leaders of the team, not necessarily the coaches. I would voice my opinion for sure. When I played, we took it amongst ourselves. We knew we had to put the hammer down early and not take any chances on teams. It is in the players hands, not the coaches so much. The coaches can only do so much. Dennis Erickson was not a real vocal guy and he didn't have to be much like Coker now. The opponent has worked all week to shock the world and if they have success early they could catch fire. Shut them down early and you own them. They'll have the 'we knew they were this good' attitude and just try to get through the game. Otherwise they get confident and tell themselves that Miami isn't that good and they think they have a shot to beat them.

What is your take on college football in general right now?
They are evening the playing field and great players come out every year and Miami cannot take them all. It is a shot in the dark, some don't work out but you get the best you can each year. It amazes me to see the rosters and all of the Florida kids on them. It doesn't surprise me that other teams are doing well. Teams are recruiting speed and that is a credit to what Miami started. Oklahoma is all about speed now on defense. We would kill people with speed and now everyone is doing it. Teams are maximizing their athletic ability. There used to be a few dominant teams but now there are more. Players are emerging more and more. I love watching college football much more than the NFL. The college kids want to get to the next level and they go out and play ball each week trying to get to that next level.

Who is the toughest player or players you faced when playing at UM?
I think Terrell Buckley was the toughest. I also thought O.J. McDuffie was incredible. I really enjoyed watching those guys and playing against Buckley. I remember my sophomore year I beat Buckley for a touchdown against Florida State and I remember walking to the sideline and telling myself 'I made it in college football.' McDuffie wasn't the fastest but he was dominant, caught everything. I felt he was a great player.

Who are some former Hurricane players you still see and talk to?
I see Yatil Green, Bernie Kosar, Darryl Williams, Horace Copeland, Warren Sapp, Ryan Collins, Robert Bailey, Donnell Bennett, Alonzo Highsmith, Craig Erickson, Gino Torretta, Daniel Stubbs. There are so many that when I see them we talk about the past. It is like a fraternity without the call letters. There are so many memories we are like long lost brothers, just so many memories to talk about.

What is your favorite memory of playing at UM?
I think beating Abraham in the 19-16 Florida State game was huge. Also playing at Notre Dame in 1990. We lost that game but it was a huge game and the atmosphere was awesome. You knew everyone was watching that game. There were a lot of things that were so exciting playing for Miami. I put my heart in that program and worked my behind off. That is how I want to be remembered.

What were your thoughts earlier this season when Miami went to Gainesville, your home town?
UM made my day when they beat Florida (laughing). Being from there I took a lot of crap before that game but we took care of business up there.

What is the story behind picking Miami over Florida for you?
Soldinger took a chance on me. I was all set to go to Florida and I was like 'wow, that's Miami.' I met Michael Irvin and Melvin Bratton on my visit and went to South Beach and it just blew me away. The campus was so small, I loved it. At Florida I felt I'd just be a Social Security number compared to Miami.

So a great visit changed your mind completely?
Actually it was Jimmy Johnson following up the visit that really convinced me. The visit made me realize how great Miami was but I was not committed after the visit or anything. Jimmy Johnson challenged me. When he came to my house, my dad asked the standard question 'when will my son start?' Jimmy laughed in my dad's face, I couldn't believe it. He told my dad that he couldn't even guarantee that I'd play. Then he got serious and looked right at my dad and said 'I will promise you one thing, your son will compete against the very best every day in practice. He will be a better player just by doing that then by going somewhere like Kentucky and playing for four years.' I was thinking this guy must be out of his mind but he challenged me and I told myself I was going there. I love the challenge and it all worked out for me.

Was Jimmy right?
It was unbelievable. Against San Jose State I twisted my ankle pretty bad. I wouldn't come out of the game and during the week they wanted me to take some time off of it but we had a freshman named Kevin Williams that came in and ran a 4.28/40 and I told myself that I better get back on that field or I may never see it again. I said 'get me ready' because I wanted to compete and be the best and not let anyone pass me.

Who else did you compete with to get playing time?
Actually Ryan McNeil was one guy that I always fought with. When I arrived he came up to me and asked what position I was playing and I told him wide receiver. He told me that Miami shouldn't have signed me because he was going to play offense and defense. We fought almost every practice and even got thrown out at times. I imagine it was funny to watch two skinny guys go at it all the time (laughing).

Were the Greentree practices tougher than the games at times?
Saturday was nothing. Everything was done on Greentree. The first play I'd walk out there and tell the DB 'this is going to be a long day for you son. We beat the crap out of each other all week and now we're going to tear you up.'

What is an interesting story the fans might not know about you?
We played against Chad Wilson one year and he actually transferred to Miami the next year. We still joke about this. When he went against us, he covered me and I told him at the start that I was going to be out there for maybe 20 or 30 minutes and then I was going to be on the sidelines with my pads off. I told him if he is lucky enough to make a tackle on our sideline I'd let him have a drink of my Gatorade. I was talking trash to him the whole time we were kicking their butt.

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