Tell us about your high school career at Columbus High in Miami and your recruiting process.
Well, I was one of the most heavily recruited linebackers in the nation my senior year. I signed with Miami. I had a chance to go anywhere I wanted. I visited Florida, Florida State, and Michigan as well. I knew I was staying in the state of Florida and I knew I was going to Miami. I just believed what Howard Schnellenberger told me. I'm not much of looking into the future. I'm more about right now. Howard told me they can win right now he said, 'you're one of the biggest recruits we've had here in a long time. If we can get people like you we can dominate college football'. I took it as a challenge and was excited about going to Miami.
You were the Defensive Player of the Year in Florida, one of the nation's premier linebacker prospects, signed with UM to play defense, yet you ended up a running back.
I had no idea I was gonna play running back. I never thought about making the switch. I've always been a team player and Howard said, 'if you make this move right now we can become a national championship contender this year'. So I made the move. If he would have told me that switching to running back could give me a chance to win the Heosman Trophy and do all that other stuff, I wouldn't have moved. But when he said the team needs me there, it was an easy choice to make.
When did the switch actually happen and how was the transition?
In our first big scrimmage (in the preseason of 1983), they put me at fullback for the first time. I was with the two's against the number one defense. After I broke a long run, I never looked back. The transition didn't bother me. Defense was always my thing. I knew nothing about offense. But I was a good athlete. I was big and fast and I was always a hard worker. I knew whatever challenge was put in front of me, I had to be the best I could be.
It didn't take long for you to make an impact as a true freshman playing a position you had never played before.
My dad, when I was growing up, always trained me, always taught me to have a good work ethic. I was the type of person that my work ethic carried me with the older kids and above the younger kids. When I came in as a freshman, I fit right in because of my work ethic. It wasn't a shock to me. My dad and me had been running in the parks as a young kid and when I got to Miami, the running, the mental toughness, I fit in perfectly and that's what helped me.
Your first season resulted in the program's first national championship. What about that team made it so special?
It was a very special team. It was an us against the world attitude type of team. We were the little team that nobody thought could win. We took it as a challenge and played the entire season with a chip on our shoulder. Whether we played Notre Dame or Oklahoma or whoever, it didn't matter because we were Miami. People used to say you'll never win at Miami. But we had such a strong bond among the players and that's what carried us. That's what separates us from other teams. Everyone has talent, everyone has guys that can run. But when you mix together a bunch of guys that are hungry, that have a special bond, they dare you to outwork them, you can't make them quit, you're gonna build something special and that's what we did.
They still show the Orange Bowl game from that championship season against Nebraska on the Classic channels. Give us a little insight into that game.
We went in as underdogs but we knew we could beat them. We were confident. There was nobody scared or hesitant, anything like that. We're playing hard, we knew we were ready for those guys. I actually hadn't played most of that year because I separated my shoulder in the first game of the year. But Howard Schnellenberger told me getting ready that he was gonna make me part of the game plan. I came in, carried the ball 7, 9 times, and I was very effective. The way our defense played, the way Bernie played, the way Eddie Brown played, we were the faster, hungrier team that night.