CORAL GABLES — Mike Rumph is discussing his top cornerback recruit, happy to run down a checklist of qualities: Vocal leader. Good tackler. Comes from a winning tradition. Good student.
“He’s a great fit,” Rumph said Wednesday.
But the name – Al Blades Jr. – makes him more than a fit. It’s fate. Or just call him family.
“So many memories,” Rumph said. “I saw this kid as a baby in the locker room, a little kid throwing up the U.”
Rumph, Miami’s second-year cornerbacks coach and a Boynton Beach native, played that position at UM from 1998-2001. He was a class behind Al Blades, who would have been 40 this year.
Blades, a safety and one of the team’s vocal leaders, died in a car accident in 2003. His son, who was 3 at the time, wanted to continue the Blades legacy at Miami. Rumph was honored to help him do so.
“It was a little more personal,” said Rumph, 38. “At the same time, his stats and what he did as a player is what really stood out to us. If he wasn’t the person he is on the field, the personal part wouldn’t have a chance.”
The younger Blades (6-0, 173), a consensus four-star recruit, was rated the seventh-best cornerback in the country and 41st prospect overall by ESPN. Rivals had him 45th. He was 10th among corners and 57th overall on 247Sports’ rankings.
Miami’s evaluation matched up with the recruiting rankings — they consider Blades, from Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the best players in the nation.
“You can’t talk about Al without talking about his mentality and his demeanor,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “He plays like a Hurricane. Highly competitive in everything he does. Wants to win in everything he does.
“That learning experience of guys understanding the sense of urgency it takes to play, Al has that (already). He gets more than anybody what it takes to be a Hurricane. We’re very proud of have him be a part of our family.”
Blades’ uncles, Bennie and Brian, also starred for the Hurricanes. Al Blades’ older brothers were around the program when he and Rumph played. They’ll no doubt be around more now.
Rumph admitted it wasn’t easy to separate the player evaluation from his own memories of his friend, who was celebrating his 26th birthday when the car in which he was a passenger crashed and careened into a canal that night nearly 15 years ago. What makes it easier: Blades shares many of his father’s traits.
“The best leader when I was here, besides Ed Reed, was Al Blades,” Rumph said. “To see the same kind of person in his son, and now I get to coach him, it’s amazing.
“There are so many stories I can tell him about his dad, he probably doesn’t know. That was always there. He just likes to talk about working hard and being competitive and wants to know what the University of Miami is really like.”
EARLY SIGNING DAY 2018
Miami signees: Click names for bios, fun facts and more
QB Jarren Williams, RB Lorenzo Lingard, RB Camron Davis, FB Realus George, WR Mark Pope, WR Brian Hightower, WR Dee Wiggins, TE Brevin Jordan, TE Will Mallory, OL John Campbell, OL Delone ‘DJ’ Scaife, DE Greg Rousseau, LB Patrick Joyner, CB Al Blades Jr., CB DJ Ivey, S Gurvan Hall, S Gilbert Frierson, K Bubba Baxa