Jayne Williams of Pembroke Pines used to get to see her favorite Miami Hurricane whenever she pleased. But on Saturday, she had to wait forever.
“You better stand up and give me a hug!” Williams told her 20-year-old son, 6-6, 223-pound quarterback Ryan Williams, who, along with his teammates, signed posters for fans waiting more than an hour-and-a-half in line at the BankUnited Center. “It probably embarrassed the heck out of him, but I don’t care. This is the only way I could get to see him in the past two weeks.”
It worked for Williams, and it seemed to work for the few thousand Hurricanes fans who filled the basketball arena on campus for UM’s annual CanesFest.
Regardless of the tight squeeze, fans young and old enjoyed a heavy dose of all things green and orange.
Several Canes teams were represented — baseball, tennis, women’s basketball, rowing, women’s golf and track among them. Players and coaches mingled with the crowd.
But the most popular attraction by far was the football team’s autograph session, with players seated at long tables and fans snaking the arena to get their signatures.
“I’ve never done this before,” punter Dalton Botts said as he happily signed autograph after autograph with his black Sharpie marker. “I’m starting to second guess what I’m writing.”
Most of the players were friendly and enthusiastic, engaging their fans in conversation. Cornerback Brandon McGee even saw his 10th grade Spanish teacher from Plantation High School.
“He was a good student,” Debora Denning, of Fort Lauderdale, said.
McGee, who got an A in Spanish, looked up at Denning and smiled. “Como estas?” he said.
The event brought fans as young as 3-week-old Tayah Dunleavy, whose mom, Pam, and dad, James, drove three hours from Port St. John in Brevard County to be there. “My husband just loves the Hurricanes,” said Pam, as tiny Tayah, complete with an orange-and-green headband and hand-painted UM T-shirt, squirmed in her arms. “We just moved to Florida. But we used to drive 16 hours to go to UM games.”
Above them on the upper level, fans posed with former UM quarterback Gino Torretta’s 1992 Heisman Trophy, Warren Sapp’s 1994 Lombardi Award and Bennie Blades’ 1987 Jim Thorpe Award — compliments of the UM Sports Hall of Fame, which brought many other pieces of UM history.
“This is huge, girls!” Hakim Kassam, 44, of Coral Springs, told his 8-year-old twin daughters Aria and Ziya as they imitated the Heisman stiff arm for photos. “This is the trophy that goes to the best player in the country.”
Peter Salas, 47, of Palmetto Bay, ran his fingers over The Heisman as his 4-year-old son, Nicolas, watched. “I was at a Miami Dolphins event where they had the Vince Lombardi Trophy from their perfect season on display,” Salas said. “But it was in a glass enclosure and you couldn’t touch it. This is great.”
Patrick Stanfield took photos of his three children — Ella, 10, John Patrick, 8, and 12-year-old Mariana – in front of a giant inflatable of Sebastian the Ibis. When Stanfield described “getting crazy for Canes’ games in front of the TV,” John Patrick laughed. “Yeah, he screams every two minutes.”
Lazaro Arribas, known throughout South Florida as “Cutler Ridge Laz,” is a chronic sports-talk radio caller who loves the Hurricanes almost more than life. He, his wife Maureen and their 13-year-old son Jordan were in their glory Saturday, schmoozing with other “CanesFam,” the term they have given to a network of fans who tweet together, blog together and have even formed their own weekly online fan show.
“This is almost like a kickoff to us,” CanesFam season-ticket holder Helen Creasman said.
“They’re so sweet,” CanesFam supporter Zuly Puma said of the football players. “A lot of them thanked me for coming, which I thought was very personable.”
Like Jayne Williams, the mothers of freshmen Tracy Howard and Gabe Terry waited and waited and waited in line so they could tell their sons they missed them and loved them.
“He said, ‘I miss you and love you, too,’ ” Shaiy Howard said.
Added Grisselle Morales of Terry: “That’s my beautiful son. He has made me one of the proudest moms in the universe.”