Around South Florida, Bill Stanfill was known as one of the Dolphins’ all-time greats and a key member of their two Super Bowl-winning teams.
Stanfill also enjoyed legendary status at his alma mater, the University of Georgia, so even though he and former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt didn’t overlap in Athens, they more than knew one another.
It turns out that Richt was instrumental in helping Stanfill obtain of his highest honors.
History says Stanfill, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman his senior year, 1968. In truth, Stanfill won the award, but didn’t exactly receive the trophy that year.
“Somehow, he was being honored by our school and I asked him where his trophy was,” Richt, the University of Miami coach, recalled this week. “And he said back in that day, they didn’t give them to the players.”
Richt didn’t find this acceptable. So he pulled strings.
“We called the people that headed up that award and I just secretly asked, ‘Could you make one for him?’ ”
The Outland folks obliged.
“And then we actually awarded it to him, which was pretty cool,” Richt said.
Stanfill went on to be the Dolphins’ first-round draft pick, 11th overall, and paid dividends. He retired as the Dolphins’ career sack leader with an unofficial 67.5 (official records weren’t kept then), which has since been surpassed by Jason Taylor’s 131.
He died last week at age 69 following complications from a bad fall.
“He was a great player and a great person and I know he’ll be missed,” Richt said. “God bless his family.”
Probably the last few chances to see Brad Kaaya in person, in other words, unless the junior decides he needs to do more before going out in the NFL draft.
Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya looks to throw during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
I’m increasingly of the opinion that he does need to do more, but Kaaya’s pro style game is never going to work until Miami fixes its offensive line problems. Already he’s taken too much punishment. Already Mark Richt has run out of ideas on how to make Kaaya get the ball out faster or move out of the pocket or do anything else to get the Hurricanes offense fully ignited again.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way for the 6-foot-4 star, who likely will finish No. 2 all-time behind Ken Dorsey in passing yards by a Miami quarterback.
The best scenario would be for some NFL team that believes in Kaaya to draft him in the first round and set him aside for a season of training. That’s what the Los Angeles Rams did with No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff from the 2015 draft.
Goff played on a California Bears team that was 4-5 in the Pac 12 his junior year but won the Armed Forces Bowl 55-36 over Air Force. Miami could still rally to a similar finish with Kaaya, improving his overall profile along the way, but Kaaya is never going to reach Goff’s ridiculous total of 43 touchdown passes in his final college season.
As a matter of fact, it’s difficult distinguishing Kaaya’s stats from the other quarterbacks remaining on Miami’s 2016 schedule.
See if you can pick his out from the following strings while matching the others to Nathan Peterman of Pittsburgh, Kurt Benkert of Virginia, Ryan Finley of North Carolina State and Daniel Jones of Duke.
11 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 128.2 rating
17 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 126.5 rating
13 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 144.8 rating
12 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 152.3 rating
13 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 138.1 rating
Kaaya is answer C, and he doesn’t really stand out by numbers alone.
The others are (A) Jones, (B) Benkert, (D) Peterman and (E) Finley.
Both Kaaya and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer had their moments in Saturday’s high-profile game at South Bend. NFL scouts will see the Fighting Irish quarterback as more athletic and Kaaya as more of a ready-made pro. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
What I see right now though is a challenge for Kaaya to finish strong, beginning with Saturday’s possible shootout with a Pittsburgh team that has scored at least 36 points in seven straight games. That’s the longest active streak in the FBS category.
Pitt has three losses but all have been to teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 – North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State.
Make it work in the season’s final month and Kaaya’s draft stock could rise dramatically again.
It can’t happen this weekend — Bacarri Rambo has too much on his plate — but it will happen soon.
Safety Bacarri Rambo, the newest Dolphin, will hop in his car, point it down I-95 toward Coral Gables, and pop in on his old coach, Mark Richt, at the University of Miami.
Although it’s natural for Rambo to do that because of their days together at the University of Georgia, the reason for the visit has little to do with football.
It has everything to do with life.
“A lot of guys talk about coaches being father figures,” Rambo says. “But Coach Richt is like the true definition of a father figure.”
Rambo learned that in 2011 in the most painful way. Rambo was becoming a father himself for the first time when his infant son died unexpectedly.
“He was there in my corner,” Rambo says of Richt. “He walked me through it and just told me God doesn’t make mistakes and just coached me up on that.”
Like Richt, Rambo is devoutly religious, so the impact was immediate. Days later, “I had the game of my career.”
It’s not every day you hear a Georgia Bulldog deliver what sounds like a recruiting pitch for the Miami Hurricanes, but once Rambo starts talking about Richt, that’s exactly what happens.
“I feel like with him coming to Miami, he’s going to not only develop players into football players but he’s going to develop them into young men — to be a great husband, a great father, a great brother, great in every aspect of their life,” says Rambo, 26, who now has two daughters. “He’s going to touch guys in places that they probably are not getting at home or growing up, just keeping their faith.”
Pointing to his fellow Bulldogs, Rambo adds, “You can tell he means a lot to all the players at Georgia that played up under him because when he left, guys were like throwing up The U. They would never support The U if Coach Richt isn’t there.”
Richt explained his approach with players in the spring.
“I’m trying to go day by day and do the things that we need to do to be as successful as we can possibly be,” Richt said. “That starts with the players. Everything I’m trying to implement is to help them become better students, better players, better people. That’s all there is to it. If you build good men, you’ve got a chance to build a good team. That’s the thing we’re working on the most.”
Rambo said Richt also supported him when he considered entering the draft early, in 2011. In 2013, Rambo became a sixth-round pick of Washington. He has since split time between Washington and Buffalo, playing 32 games with 11 starts, making 100 tackles and three interceptions.
Although Rambo technically is taking the roster spot left when running back Arian Foster retired, he’s actually filling a hole in the secondary created when Reshad Jones was lost for the season because of a rotator cuff tear. That, too, hits close to home for Rambo because they were teammates at Georgia in 2009.
“Reshad is like a brother to me,” Rambo says. “He was one of the guys that taught me the way.”
As Bulldogs, Jones and Rambo were competing for a pass once, and “Next thing you know, I see another red helmet coming dead in my chest,” Rambo says. “Knocked me out.” Like a typical NFL receiver, Rambo ended up on the worst end of his meeting with Jones. He suffered a concussion.
Rambo visited Jones a few days ago, “trying to coach him up on his surgery and to keep his spirits up,” but the opposite happened. Jones was coaching up Rambo on the Dolphins’ defense.
“Injuries happen, but I hate it happened to him,” Rambo says.
Rambo has been there. He had surgery on a torn meniscus in January and barely had a nibble from the NFL until Miami called. Rambo had been filling out job applications at the time and had a promising lead via an old strength coach at Georgia: He’d been in touch with the owner of car dealerships.
Wednesday, Rambo sat in a near-deserted Dolphins locker room. Teammates had begun to scatter for that rare bye weekend off. Some were planning trips to Haiti or The Bahamas as part of the organization’s extensive Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. Some were heading home. Some were grateful to be doing anything that did not involve football.
Rambo is thankful he doesn’t have that luxury.
“I’m here,” he says. “I’m in my playbook, trying to learn the plays. I had my bye week for eight weeks. Longest bye week ever.”
Palm Beach Post staff writer Matt Porter contributed to this story.
Brad Kaaya’s first pass of the season goes for a touchdown to a 280-pound fullback? Yeah, right. Nobody would buy that, including the 280-pound fullback who caught the 4-yarder and who, three days later, still sounded unconvinced.
To appreciate Marquez Williams’ take on what started the University of Miami’s 70-point avalanche Saturday, you must first picture the scene Tuesday. There was Williams, a monstrously powerful bowling ball generously listed at 6-foot-1, sweat dripping from his bald head, applying laughter where people usually use a period: to complete most sentences.
“Almost like it was a movie,” he said of his score, chuckling.
At one point in the discussion, he used the label big-time football player, only with quote marks around the phrase. See, Marquez Williams doesn’t just play the position of selfless, blocking fullback, he lives it.
“No, no, not at all,” he said when asked if he pictured himself on the end of a touchdown pass against Florida A&M. “Especially when I went into the game and I got the call. I kind of ran the route. I just knew Brad wasn’t going to throw it to me. I was like, ‘No way.’ ”
Williams sprinted to the right flat with lots of space, Kaaya threw it and …
“Oh, catch it,” Williams said, laughing as he recalled his thoughts.
Williams’ score helped set the tone for the rout, but did it also set the tone for his senior season? How often will touchdowns happen?
“Every Saturday,” he joked. “I don’t know. I go with what’s in the game plan and what’s best for the team, to help the team. Primarily, that’s blocking.
“And every so often, they throw me a bone.”
WATCH VIDEO OF MARQUEZ WILLIAMS POWER-CLEANING 381 POUNDS
The biggest bone was tossed in the spring. He couldn’t believe his luck then, either. What happened was UM needed a fullback and a fullback needed UM. Williams grew up in Athens, Ga., a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs. But he first played at Mars Hill in North Carolina and earned his undergraduate degree, so he sent “hundreds of emails.” Then?
“A lot of schools told me that I could walk on or they didn’t use a fullback,” he said.
He phoned UM, leaving a message for Jon Richt, UM’s quarterbacks coach. Why not? He and Jon played together at Mars Hill. Jon is the son of Mark Richt, the UM head coach who formerly coached Williams’ beloved Georgia Bulldogs.
“I always had wanted to play with him,” Williams said of Mark Richt. “I thought if I did play for him, that it would be in red and black and not orange and green.”
One day in the spring, Mark Richt called Williams. Keeping in mind that Williams never believed Kaaya would throw him that ball, he certainly wasn’t buying this notion that The Mark Richt was calling him.
“Honestly, I saw a Georgia number and being in North Carolina, I was always picking up Georgia numbers, just thinking it’s family or friends,” Williams said. “So yeah, when I saw the number, I thought somebody was playing a prank on me. It sounded like him. I just had to make sure.”
They hit it off, even though Williams can’t believe his luck. Big-time football player? Williams marvels at the swag Division I players get.
“I tell people all the time when I was at Mars Hill, we got one pair of cleats, we got three pairs of game socks, a workout shirt, workout shorts and an undershirt for the game,” he said. “But other than that, you didn’t get too much more.
“And now I’ve got a whole wardrobe full of Miami gear and I love it. Not a bad deal. I got shoes, I got some shirts and shorts, book bags. I appreciate it. I don’t take this for granted at all.”
Neither do UM coaches.
“It’s hard to find guys who have the size to play fullback but more importantly, guys that have that mindset,” said Thomas Brown, UM’s offensive coordinator and running backs coach. “There are very few guys who are tough enough to go in, down after down, and bloody their nose against 240-pound-plus linebackers and kind of be unselfish with being able to not get the football and just be, basically, glorified linemen.”
Philosophically speaking, Mark Richt won’t abandon the fullback anytime soon, especially given that Williams power-cleans 381 pounds, making him one of the strongest players in college football.
“We do believe in having a lead blocker,” Richt said. “Not every play. We have a lot of one-back run. But when we have a two-back run, I like to have a big, physical fullback who’s basically another pulling guard who can catch and who has a little bit of a running skill. He’s got a great skill set and we’re excited about that.”
Williams knows his role.
“It’s a dying position but it has to be something that you love to do,” said Williams, part of UM’s 373-yard rushing attack. “You have to love blocking. You have to love hitting. And most definitely love to see your running backs run up and down the field and scoring touchdowns. That’s the enjoyment out of it. Catching touchdowns? It’s nice every so often.”
That selflessness spills over to his personal life. His undergraduate studies centered on social work, and his internships have been at an elementary school and with the Department of Juvenile Justice in Asheville, N.C., where he helped assessing cases, “trying to help the individuals instead of detaining them,” he said.
His expectations for a post-football career are directly in line with playing fullback.
“You know, a lot of football players and NFL players are often seen in the media, and their word and what they do really shines bright to others,” Williams said. “So while I’m in the media and the limelight and people see me as a ‘big-time football player,’ underneath all that, I just want to be able to help others.”
Sometimes it’s helping kids on the wrong path. Sometimes it’s helping running backs find the path to the end zone.
And every now and then, it’s paving a path for himself.
New Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt hired Miami native Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator today, moving a step closer to filling out his coaching staff.
Diaz, the son of a former Miami mayor of the same name, spent the 2015 season as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator, his second stint at the school. The Bulldogs went 9-4 this season, beating North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl.
“I’ve known him for over 20 years and I’ve watched him become one of the best defensive minds in the business,” said Richt, who added Diaz will run a 4-3 scheme in 2016.
Diaz worked as Louisiana Tech’s defensive coordinator in 2014, heading a unit that led the nation in forcing turnovers. Before that, Diaz was at Texas from 2011-13, and Mississippi State in 2010 for his first stint there. He also was defensive coordinator for four seasons at Middle Tennessee State, spending time coaching linebackers and safeties at the school.
Diaz, 41, who graduated from Florida State, said the chance to coach in Miami was too good to pass up.
“We knew it would take a very unique opportunity for us to consider leaving,” Diaz said. “God blessed me with a chance to return home, to coach in my hometown and to reunite with family. It is the kind of opportunity that comes along rarely in this business.”
Richt has yet to confirm if he has made any decisions on whether to retain offensive coordinator James Coley or Larry Scott, who served as interim head coach after Al Golden was fired.
With the University of Miami’s official announcement of new head football coach Mark Richt on Friday, we thought it made sense to take a look back through the coaches who have gotten the Canes to this point.
We begin around 1980 with the following man as the Hurricanes were building toward national prominence.
* The man who “built a fence around South Florida” to keep rival coaches from poaching talent from “the state of Miami” and made good on his promise to bring a national championship to the Magic City.
* Posted a 41-16 record at UM from 1979-83, culminating in his final season with an 11-1 record and victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl as Miami won its first national championship.
* In a move he later admitted regretting, Schnellenberger left UM to become part-owner and general manager of a Miami-based team in the still-new USFL. The deal fell apart when the franchise wound up in Orlando instead of Miami.
* High point: Coining the phrase “state of Miami.”
* Low point: Leaving too soon.
* The Texas-born Johnson arrived from Oklahoma State with little name recognition but with a head of hair, a brashness and a football mind that would set the college football world ablaze. Under Johnson, UM became as well known for its blowout victories and string of All-America players as it did for on- and off-field controversy. It was “Miami Vice” in cleats.
* Posted a 52-9 record at UM from 1984-88, winning one national championship (1987) and finishing No. 2 in the polls twice (1986 and 1988). Johnson’s 1986 team was considered perhaps the most talented college football team ever (until the 2001 Hurricanes came along).
* Johnson left Miami to join his former University of Arkansas teammate Jerry Jones in reviving the Dallas Cowboys. With Johnson as coach and Jones as owner, the Cowboys went from 1-15 to back-to-back Super Bowl champions in five years.
* High point at UM: Getting carried off the field after Miami beat Oklahoma to win the Orange Bowl and capture the national title.
* Low point at UM: In back-to-back games at the Orange Bowl in Johnson’s first season, UM blew a then-record 31-0 halftime lead and lost to Maryland (42-40) and lost to Boston College on the (in)famous “Hail Flutie!” play.
* The answer to trivia questions (Which UM coach has won the most national championships and has the highest winning percentage?), Erickson is often treated like the forgotten Beatle of Hurricanes coaches.
Part of it is that he came after the highly successful and colorful Schnellenberger and Johnson (who is given credit for leaving a cupboard full of talent behind for Erickson to win his two national titles), and part of it is because it was on his watch that the Pell Grant scandal — that eventually landed the program on probation — came to light. The rampant rules violations actually dated back to 1985, and Erickson was never accused of any wrongdoing.
* He posted a 63-9 record from 1989 to 1994, winning the 1989 and 1991 national championships. His undefeated 1992 team lost in the Sugar Bowl, missing a chance for a repeat title, and his 1994 team lost in the Orange Bowl with another national title on the line.
* Erickson left Miami after the 1994 season to become the coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
* High point at UM: The Hurricanes won 29 straight games over the course of the 1990-92 seasons.
* Low point at UM: The 1991 Cotton Bowl saw Miami set a then-school record for penalties (15) and penalty yards (202) in an egregious display of unsportsmanlike behavior. Miami still beat Texas 46-3, but to the rest of the college football world, Erickson looked like a man who had lost control of his program.
* To Hurricanes fans, he will always be beloved as the man who put the swag back in The U. He did not win a national championship as coach, but he took over a program that was rocked in 1995 by NCAA sanctions stemming from the Pell Grant scandal and by the end of the decade had recruited so many future NFL superstars that some people believe the Miami teams of 2000-02 were the most talented in college football history.
During the latest UM coaching search, he was the runaway popular pick by Hurricanes fans until Mark Richt became available, and he campaigned hard for the job.
* Davis, who served as an assistant under Jimmy Johnson at Miami and the Dallas Cowboys, posted a 51-20 record at UM from 1995 to 2000. Miami was on probation for his first season and suffered scholarship reductions spread over several seasons.
* He left Miami in 2001 to take the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns.
* High point at UM: Miami snapped a five-game losing streak to Florida State with a 27-24 victory on Oct. 7, 2000 at the Orange Bowl in the “Wide Right III” game.
* Low point at UM: Despite beating FSU and both teams having one loss in 2000, Miami was passed over in favor of the Seminoles for a spot in the BCS championship game. FSU would lose to Oklahoma 13-2 in the Orange Bowl, and after that game FSU offensive coordinator Mark Richt took the head coaching job at Georgia.
* Regarded as one of the nicest guys in coaching, Coker was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Butch Davis and enjoyed one of the longest honeymoon periods in coaching history. Coker, whose players had lobbied hard for him to get the job, won his first 24 games as Hurricanes coach, including the 2001 national championship, and tied Walter Camp for the best record by a coach in his first 32 games (31-1). However, as more of the players recruited under Butch Davis departed, Coker’s records grew worse. His last three seasons were UM’s first three in the ACC and started a streak that continues to this day of the Hurricanes having never won an ACC championship.
* Coker posted a 60-15 record at Miami from 2001-2006. He is the last college football coach to win a national title in his first season as a head coach.
* Coker was fired in November of 2006, one day after telling reporters he expected to be back the next season. Miami beat Nevada in its bowl game to salvage a winning season (7-6) and send Coker out victoriously.
* High point at UM: In the Hurricanes one and only appearance in the Rose Bowl, the 2001 Miami squad cruised past Nebraska to win its fifth – and so far last – national championship.
* Low point at UM: The Hurricanes seemingly had defeated Ohio State in overtime to win the Fiesta Bowl and the 2002 national championship – Coker was halfway across the field to shake the hand of Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel as confetti fell from the sky – when everyone realized that a late pass-interference penalty had been called. The game continued, Ohio State eventually won in two overtimes (stopping Miami on four plays after a 1st-and-goal from the 2) and the Hurricanes’ program has been in a fog ever since.
* A former standout linebacker at Miami, Shannon was brought in to replace Larry Coker after the 2006 season and was tasked with bringing discipline back to a program still reeling from a wild bench-clearing brawl with Florida International the season before.
Shannon grew up in Liberty City, and his hiring was a huge source of pride for the community. Miami football players had one of the best academic performance rates in the country under Shannon, and only one player was arrested during his four seasons. Also, he was not linked to the scandal surrounding booster Nevin Shapiro that would eventually lead to NCAA sanctions. However, on the field, Shannon could not achieve the success fans wanted.
* Shannon compiled a 28-22 record at UM from 2007 to 2010. Miami never lost fewer than four games in a season — and never won more than nine — and lost both bowl games it appeared in under Shannon. Miami finished out of the national rankings three times under Shannon.
* After a 6-3 home loss to South Florida on Nov. 27, 2010 dropped UM’s record to 7-5, Shannon was fired.
* High point at UM: Shannon recruited eight players from Miami-Northwestern High’s national-championship team following the 2007 season. The group of players, led by quarterback Jacory Harris, was believed to be the one that would lead UM back to prominence.
* Low point at UM: After being fired, Shannon had to watch from afar as his team was dismantled by Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl and had to hear his successor, Al Golden – who was interviewed during the game – talk about how poor and uninspired his team looked.
* The New Jersey native and short-term NFL tight end came to Coral Gables with loads of promise, having led former FBS cellar-dweller Temple to a combined record of 17-8 in 2009-10. But the nattily clad Golden — who wore a dress shirt, slacks and a tie on the sidelines during games — proved to be only slightly above average, thanks in no small part to the self-imposed sanctions hanging over the program’s head from the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
* Went 32-25 overall in his four and a half seasons at the helm (2011-15), but the team only went to two bowl games during that stretch due to the NCAA penalties. His best season saw the Canes go 9-3 in the 2013 regular season before getting spanked by Louisville 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
* Golden was canned following Miami’s 58-0 shellacking at the hands of No. 1 Clemson on Oct. 25, 2015, the worst loss in the 90-year history of the program.
* High point at UM: Golden and the Canes got off to a 7-0 start in 2013 that included a 21-16 win over Florida and saw them rise as high as No. 7 in the country.
* Low point at UM: Clemson.58-0. Enough said.
* Yes, Richt is best known as the coach who led the Georgia Bulldogs to a 145–51 record over the past 15 seasons — winning two SEC championships — but he has plenty of ties to south Florida. The 55-year-old not only played quarterback at The U — largely as a backup to Jim Kelly — from 1979-82 under Schnellenberger, but he grew up in Boca Raton and graduated from Boca High in 1978.
“I don’t want to make any promises,” Richt said during his introductory news conference Friday. “I want to promise we’re going to get to work and earn a right to victory.
“My goal is to finish my coaching career at ‘The U.’ “