Alonzo Highsmith Interview: Part 2

Alonzo Highsmith is one of the All-Time Greats at the University of Miami and caught up with him to relive some of his career highlights. In part two of the series, Highsmith talked about a number of interesting things so you don't want to miss this!

Howard left after 83 and Jimmy came in. Tell us a little about the transition there.
First of all, it was very disappointing that Howard left. I thought he gave up too much and got too little back. If Howard had stayed or if Jimmy had stayed, they'd be approaching legendary status in college football. Howard was a blessing to the program, as was JImmy. I learned a great deal about life from Jimmy Johnson. Howard taught us toughness, work ethic, things like that and Jimmy came right in and finished it off. I think Jimmy learned a lot from us and we certainly learned a lot from him. They were a lot different but they were both very demanding, expected excellence, both preached hard work, and don't think either was any easier on us as far as work ethic. It was rock 'em, sock 'em all the time. We used to look forward to games because we knew they couldn't be any harder than the practices we were having throughout the weeks. That was always our motto and it carried into when Jimmy was there.

People often talk about how talented the 86 team was. What happened in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State that night?
We came in probably a little bit, I don't know, I'm not sure I'd say overconfident. We just knew we were the better team. We had a bad day offensively. Our defense played great. Our passing game was off that night. We weren't the Miami team people had seen throughout the regular season that night. It was an off day for our offense. Give Penn State credit, they got it done. They did a good job defending what we were doing. I still say if I had carried the ball at the end of the game, we would have won. We got down to the five yard line with 40 seconds left and didn't run one running play. It was an off night, a tough loss for all of us.

One of the greatest stats in college football is how many games in a row you guys won over No. 1 ranked opponents back in the 80s and early 90s. How were you able to accomplish that?
We loved playing top ranked teams. Gary Stevens told us that when we were going to play Michigan or Oklahoma or whoever, to get one thing straight. Everyone was coming to see you guys, coming to see us. The fans and everyone watching on TV wanna watch Miami play. We loved playing on the road. I don't think any team was better than us on the road and that mentality really helped us prepare for big games like that.

Speaking of playing well on the road, you guys went 20-2 in your career in road games. Why were you so successful away from the Orange Bowl?
Jimmy Johnson was one of the greatest road coaches in college football. He was awesome on the road. He was all business. There was no joking around. You weren't there to see family. You weren't there to see your girlfriend. You were there to win a football game. Anything outside of winning was a distraction and we bought into that. As a team, we knew we weren't there to see family. Jimmy said to see them after the game, after we finished what we were there to do. We loved playing at Notre Dame, at Oklahoma, at Florida State, at Florida. There's nothing like it. We loved seeing 80,000 people in the stands who hate us. We came out with an attitude and a chip on our shoulder. That was an awesome feeling and we made sure to get the job done.

What was the best rivalry for you guys?
It had to have been Notre Dame. We hated Notre Dame, they hated us. We hated Florida too but we knew a lot of the Florida guys. We didn't like Notre Dame. That's a rivalry that needs to come back.

Give us your favorite memory as a Hurricane.
Winning the national championship, scoring four touchdowns at Notre Dame, and beating Oklahoma in 1 vs. 2, in that order. They were all great but winning the championship was awesome.

After you left in 86, you were drafted in the top 5 of the NFL Draft. Was the draft prep anything like it is today?
It was the same as it is now, minus all the TV and media coverage. We did the same exact things minus ESPN and all that. I went to the combine and I was a unique prospect from the aspect that I was big, strong, as physical as any defensive player on the field, I was tough, had good hands, and I could run. I ran a 4.4-something at 240 pounds.

Highsmith Interview: Part 1

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