An Unwanted Statistic
In the last seventeen years the University of Miami football team has laid nine of their current or former players to rest.
Early next week former Hurricane safety Sean Taylor will be the tenth.
While “The U” brought college football to the forefront in the mid 1980’s and given us many of the game’s greatest players it has been a campus that has been shaken by tragedy time and again.
- Kevin Gibbs was killed in a car accident in 1990.
- Former defensive end Shane Curry was fatally wounded after being shot outside of a night club on May 4, 1992 in a dispute over a parking spot.
- Former Hurricane great, defensive tackle Jerome Brown and his nephew Gus were killed on June 25,1992, when Brown lost control of his Chevy Corvette on a rain-slicked road not far from his Brooksville, Fl. home
- Defensive Lineman Caesar O’Neal died from complications from cancer in late 1992.
- Linebacker Marlin Barnes (former roommate of Ray Lewis) and Timwanika Lumpkins were murdered by Lumpkins’ former boyfriend on April 13, 1996.
- Robert Woodus, Miami Hurricane linebacker was a passenger on Valu Jet Flight 592 that crashed in the Florida Everglades on May 12, 1996
- On February 16, 2002 – a car accident claimed the life of senior linebacker Chris Campbell
- In March, 2003 – Al Blades (Brother of former ‘Canes Benni and Brian) and Martel Johnson were killed in a car crash. Blades was not the driver.
- Defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed in the parking lot of his apartment on November 7, 2006. His case remains unsolved.
- Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was fatally wounded after being shot by an intruder to his home on November 26, 2007.
My mind went back to some of these young men as I remember them – particularly Jerome Brown, I remember it so vividly – the shock that the City of Philadelphia was in. I remember Buddy Ryan, who was fired the year before not being able to speak through the tears, Reggie White, Seth Joyner and Clyde Simmons weeping like children. It was something that I will never forget.
In the fall of 1992, I returned for my 2nd semester at Knoxville College (famous alum Ralph Wiley) ironically, my roommate was from Jerome’s hometown of Brooksville. He talked about how Brown rallied the town behind him to protest a march by the KKK. I knew he was telling the truth because Sports Illustrated did a piece on it earlier in the year.
Later that fall my dad passed away from cancer. Upon my return to campus I had three friends from Miami that made sure I was good – whether it was money, food, whatever. They took me to the mall on my 21st birthday to get something to wear because I didn’t have a car. We had alot in common except when it came to college and pro ball – the two brothers were Cowboy fans and the other was a Dolphins fan. You know I was down with the Eagles. They were all ‘Canes fans, me – I rolled with the ‘Noles, I couldn’t even win an argument with the damn Dolphins fan. They had funny sayings like “my ni**a”, no matter what they said they ended the sentence with those two words. They loved Uncle Luke and The Geto Boys, they made me a Scarface fan, not the movie, the rap legend.
I’ll never forget them for their kindness.
I learned that a college campus is a microcosm of our world, you’ve got a little bit of everything, our campus was tiny so if something happened, it spread like a bad rumor.
“The U” no different, it is a city all it’s own, these things happen. I highlighted the circumstances behind the deaths of these young men because the media would have you believe that these are troubled men that got what was coming to them – and find that disturbing.
Recently the Penn State campus has been the scene of several players being suspended for bar fights and even sex scandals but no one points the finger at this “Lilly White” institution. All schools have scandal all I’m asking is to make the coverage fair and not pass judgment because of who they are or what the media’s perception of the school is,
I’m sure the parents of these individuals will appreciate it.