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College football: Fiesta Bowl

At Miami, football is fun

By Keith Niebuhr
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

Gainesville native Lamar Thomas was a wide receiver for the Hurricanes from 1989 to 1992. He played for national championship teams in 1989 and '91, and was picked in the third round by the Buccaneers in 1993. Thomas retired from the NFL after the 2001 season. He shared his thoughts with Times staff writer Keith Niebuhr.

* * *

In high school, I wanted to be like Michael Irvin. I enjoyed watching him play. I enjoyed his swagger. I came down (to Miami) when Miami beat Florida 31-4 (in 1987). I was watching them on the sidelines and I said, "You know what -- these guys -- nothing bothers them." I went and talked to some of the guys after the game and they were like brothers. It was like a big family. And I thought, "I want to go to school down there."

When I think about being a University of Miami football player, I think of brotherly love and competition. And that's what makes it so great. We love each other as brothers. It's a "Canes thing. A lot of people don't understand.

We compete so much against each other that it's so easy for us to go out on Saturdays and play well. We feel as though we play against the best players in practice. And when we practice it's full-go. It's just like a game and it just makes us better. If I see a guy like (former Miami player) Cortez Kennedy or all these guys that I played with, it makes me feel like nothing has changed. We're all like brothers. We've all left blood, sweat and tears out there on the field.

It was great there. It was the time of my life.

I look back on my days at UM and I think about how hard it was to work, but how easy it was to play. It was us against the world. No doubt about it. It's almost like we'd get no respect because everybody wanted to see us falter. When Miami lost back in the heyday, everybody was like, "Oh yeah, Miami lost. Miami lost." And when we won, it was like, "Oh, they won again" or "Oh, they shouldn't have won. They were lucky."

Now, the swagger is different. When I played, we were good, but we let you know about it. These kids now go and do what they have to do and they go about it in a business-like fashion. It's hard to hate kids like that.

I go to all the home games and I try to make it to a lot of the away games. I spend a lot of time talking to the kids, especially the receivers. I've grown to have a bond with a lot of those kids. And (receivers coach Curtis Johnson) lets me talk to them. He tells me that if I see anything out there on the field to tell them. And they listen. I would love to coach for Miami one day, especially the receivers. But (Johnson) told me I'll never get his job.

I just sat down with the receivers (Wednesday) and told them how proud I was of them because to repeat is tough. Everybody is shooting at you. The way they've handled themselves and the way they've gone about their business has been fun to watch.

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