CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Divided loyalties
David Heffernan, one of the biggest University of Miami football fans on the planet, said he would wear his 1983 Miami national championship ring and Hurricanes garb — head to toe — for Thursday-night’s big game against North Carolina.
And the person watching with Heffernan, a Miami lawyer and the Canes’ starting right tackle for that first national title?
His son, Tommy, a Tar Heels linebacker.
Tommy Heffernan, 22, who grew up in Miami loving the Canes and going to games with his dad in the Orange Bowl, had surgery on his left shoulder Wednesday to repair a torn labrum. He was set to be released from the hospital Thursday, his dad said by phone, to join his parents in a Chapel Hill hotel to watch the game.
“He’s amazing — a great kid,” said David, who, along with his teammates and former coach Howard Schnellenberger, was recently honored at Sun Life Stadium for the 30th anniversary of their national title.
“Tommy tore his labrum in training camp, and it just became too problematic. It’s a four- or five-month rehab, and he had it done now in hopes to get back for his senior year.”
The younger Heffernan, who played at Miami Columbus, was not recruited by any FBS schools, though he had always dreamed of playing for UM. A connection to former Canes coach Butch Davis, who was coaching UNC at the time, helped land Heffernan a spot on the roster as a preferred walk-on. From there he earned a football scholarship.
Tommy Heffernan, in fact, was the Tar Heel who led the team in tackles and had the only sack in UNC’s victory over UM last season at Sun Life Stadium.
His father said Tommy is still a Canes fan — “except when his team is lining up against them.”
Said David Heffernan: “Tommy has certainly cut his own path at North Carolina. But I still told him that now that I don’t have to be in the parents’ section for the game, I’ll be wearing my UM gear Thursday — absolutely.”
Rece Davis, who called the game Thursday night for ESPN, met with UM beat writers in the afternoon and was asked if he believed Miami “was really” the No. 10 team in the country?
Davis: “I have them ranked — they’re [No. 13] in the power rankings based on what I think they deserve. Realistically, I would probably view them around 15 to 18, somewhere in that neighborhood, and that’s no slight. They’re good, they’re building and I think all the arrows are pointing up.”
Davis said he believes Miami is close to being back.
“I’m not sure I look at them and say, ‘Boy, they’re overwhelming — this is a juggernaut.’ Somebody asked me if they were back to [being] the old ‘U.’ I was like, ‘I don’t see [ Warren] Sapp and [ Jon] Vilma and [ Michael] Irvin and people like that running around out there.’ They’ve got good players, but I don’t know if they have that good level of player yet.”
UM defensive tackle Curtis Porter was thrilled to return to his home state of North Carolina for the game.
Porter is from Charlotte, N.C., where he played at Victory Christian High.
“It’s going to be nice and emotional,” Porter said. He said his mother and “a ton” of family members were driving to the game.
• UM’s third-team quarterback, redshirt freshman Gray Crow, did not make the trip to Chapel Hill. UM spokesman Chris Yandle said there was “nothing to it.” Fourth-team quarterback Kevin Olsen, a true freshman, did travel to the game.