Alonzo Highsmith Interview: Part 4

Alonzo Highsmith is one of the All-Time Greats at the University of Miami and he recently sat down with an interview with In this installment, Highsmith touches on a number of interesting topics, including his detailed thoughts on the direction of the program. You don't want to miss this!

Why do you think the Canes have struggled so much lately?
I've been working for the Packers (as a regional scout) for almost 11 years now. I see so many great football players from Miami playing on other college teams. I ask them why they're not at Miami. They tell me it's because Miami never recruited me. I'm talking about guys I see at the combine, guys who are first, second, third round draft picks. I see a kid from Jackson High or Hialeah and they tell me Miami didn't recruit me. It's hard to believe and I think that's one of the biggest reasons why they've sorta tailed off lately.

Randy and his coaching staff seem to be fixing that, right?
Randy's going back to the blackboard, going back to the blue print that is what made Miami Miami. When you're at Miami, recruit the best South Florida kids. We brought in some out of state kids but they had to be special. We didn't bring in average players from out of state hoping they'd find a way. The kids we brought in from out of state were special players. We didn't believe in bringing in the average player from New Jersey. We went out and brought in guys like Danny Stubbs, Bernie Kosar, Vinny, Jim Kelly, guys like that. You bring in special players like that from out of state when the rest of your team is from Florida, South Florida, then you're onto something. That's what put Miami on the map when I signed and that's what's gonna put Miami back on top -- the best local players.

Often times the South Florida kids aren't bigger or faster or stronger but they seem to have a certain competitiveness about them. Why is that?
The thing about recruiting players from Miami is they don't care about the facilities. They don't care about the things that a lot of kids are going to college for. They care about running through that tunnel and playing for a national championship. All the time I hear about kids talking about the 20,000 square foot weight room or the indoor facilities or this and that. Miami won't offer any of that but you'll learn to work hard, form a brotherhood, run through the tunnel, and compete for championships year after year. That's why the Miami kids are a little different, because their priorities aren't the same as most other kids. I know guys who bench press 500 pounds and squat 700 and their weight room is in their garage. If you ain't working, it won't matter. All that stuff is for show. The big weight room, the big indoor facilities, the big crowd, that's all for show. A lot of kids buy into it but the South Florida guys have other priorities and that's the blue print Miami will need to maintain and I think they're doing a good job of getting back to that.

Tell us about your first experience with the Canes and when you wanted to become a Hurricane.
I remember going to be first game at the Orange Bowl. They were playing against Florida and I believe it was in 1981. The Orange Bowl was packed. They had 72,000 fans there. I had never been to a game. That was a first for me. When I saw Miami run out of the tunnel that day, the rest of my life was changed. The rest of my life and the rest of my high school career was dedicated to getting a scholarship from Miami and one day being able to run through that smoke onto the field. That was the greatest feeling in college football -- when we came through that smoke. We didn't care if there were eight people in the stands. The funny thing is, I never told Howard Schnellenberger that. I knew I was going to Miami and he didn't even need to recruit me hard.

How about A.J.'s first experience?
They did a reunion of the 1983 championship team. Me and my son flew down for the game. He ran through the tunnel with me. He was only a baby at the time. Me and him ran through that smoke together. I still have a picture of that. I would always say to myself, wouldn't that be great if he could one day run through that smoke by himself.

How far away do you think this team is from winning a national title again?
Honestly, one year. I'm looking at 2009.

Why so quickly?
I think the attitude is where it needs to be again. They're recruiting the right kids -- the types of kids that it means something to them. That attitude alone, the competition, will make them a better team and they'll have plenty of players.

A lot of former players come back to workout during the offseason at Miami. Why is that so big here when you don't see it at other top programs?
When you went to Miami, you didn't have 90,000 people at every home game. You didn't have all the big boosters. You didn't have the prettiest practice fields. You had good facilities but you didn't have what Alabama, Penn State, those people had. What you did have, though, was a bond. While other programs had those types of things, we had each other at Miami. We formed a brotherhood that money couldn't buy. It didn't matter if you were a star player, an average player, someone who didn't play. You were part of a unique group of people and those guys always take pride in coming back and watching and being around the young guys there now, giving them good advice. And you know another thing about that, you rarely hear about Miami guys getting in trouble. Sure, we've gotten in trouble but you don't see the constant drug problems, the arrests, things like that now. That's because when you have so many pro players coming back and hanging around, the kids see that and they wanna be where those guys are.

Give us your thoughts on the move from the Orange Bowl to Dolphins Stadium.
I loved the Orange Bowl but change is inevitible in life. They're rebuilding Yankee Stadium too. It's part of life, You move on. They'll just start a new winning tradition there. For the players, it doesn't change the bond, the brotherhood, the work ethic. And for fans, they'll enjoy going to the new stadium better. They'll have a better experience, better tailgating, they'll feel safer, they'll have big screens to watch, they'll have luxury boxes. The fans will enjoy it and it'll feel like a big time program.

You played with Coach Shannon and know him pretty well. Tell us a little about him.
All of us who played with Coach Shannon knew he'd be a head coach one day. He was always real smart about the game, always giving lessons to other linebackers, always watching the extra film, doing the extra studying. You knew he'd be a coach one day. He was very quiet, sorta unassuming. He raised hell too now but he was so quiet you didn't even know it was him.

How can such a quiet, laid back coach be so successful on the recruiting front and in the homes of top recruits?
Randy's the type of guy parents can believe in. When he tells you something, you trust him. He's that type of guy. And Randy knows where kids come from. He's been there and can identify with every single type of kid. That's why he recruits so well.

What made you get into scouting?
Just by chance, I met someone. He introduced me to Ron Wolfe. I interviewed and got hired. I've loved every minute of it. I'm a Regional Scout and cover Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Evaluation-wise, what's the best way to look at a running back coming out of high school?
Just look for the dominant player. Any kid that's gonna be a big time running back in college was dominant in high school. Running backs aren't born overnight. Most great running backs can be seen from Pop Warner to junior high and into high school.

Prediction on the 2008 season?
I'll say 10-3. i think we'll get 10 wins and I know that's doubling last year's total but I think the kids understanding what it means to be a Hurricane now moreso than before will pay off a lot in the second year.

Any final thoughts as we wrap up?
I just hope Randy gets old alumni back involved. People like Paul Demauri, who was a big part of the program back in the 80s. Lets get people like that involved, lets bring back the pride of being a Hurricane, and lets bring back what it means to be a Hurricane. I hope every kid on that team understands what it means to work hard and to be a Hurricane. If we get back to that, we'll be very successful again.

Highsmith Interview: Part 1

Highsmith Interview: Part 2

Highsmith Interview: Part 3

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