You can’t spell thug without the ‘U’?
A frustrating, flat-out lie, said University of Miami offensive coordinator/running backs coach Thomas Brown on Wednesday, two days before the Hurricanes (8-4) were to leave for Orlando to prepare for West Virginia (10-2) in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
When Brown was asked after practice if he had learned anything about the program that might have been different from his initial expectations, he strongly criticized the still prevalent national perception that UM players are bad people and Miami is a scary place.
“One of the biggest surprises was how great our kids are as people,” said Brown. “Coming down here so many people told me so many negative things about the players in Miami, whether it was from a recruiting standpoint or the guys we have on our roster. There have just been very few issues.
“I thought we’d have to come in and put the hammer down and yell and kick half the team off because of the perception of what people say about Miami or Miami kids, and even some adults when I was leaving Georgia coming down here. [They] tried to scare me out of it and scare my wife and kids out of it.
“I’m like, ‘There are bad things about every place … and you’ll find some negativity if you want to find it in a place.’ It’s been phenomenal to be around our guys. They’re not perfect, but those guys are very coachable and hungry and they want to be great.”
Brown, who has two young children, played for UM coach Mark Richt at Georgia. He finished his career as the fifth-leading rusher in Georgia history with 2,646 career yards and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He spent 2009 with the Cleveland Browns before retiring to pursue coaching.
Brown seemed relieved to emote about the misconceptions he has heard for years.
“I get tired of hearing people just spread lies and say negative stuff and have no proof behind it,” Brown said. “You can talk about some things that happened a lot of years ago but let’s talk about currently what’s going on, the guys we have right now.
“When people talk about our team having thugs and criminals, I think that’s idiotic. We have plenty of stories about guys going into the community and sharing some of their experiences with the youth — not about football, but about life.
“I tell my guys all the time that football is what I do. It’s my profession. But I care more about what happens with them outside of football than I ever will whether they score touchdowns or catch passes or make tackles. To me it’s about what happens to you 30 years down the road, the type of person you become.”
UM running back Mark Walton, the team’s MVP who has run for 1,065 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, spoke to the media a bit later. He said “watching more film and being confident” with his runs and being comfortable with his ability to play on this level contributed to his success.
“Obviously being voted team MVP was a huge accomplishment for him,” Brown said. “It was kind of surprising to him that he was actually voted that. He still has a lot of room to grow as a player. He could become better and more of a vocal leader…
“From a life standpoint he’s a guy that I spend a lot of time with individually talking about things outside of football. There is not much motivation that needs to be had from him on the football field, but I want him to be great as a person first. Not that he isn’t, but I want him to continue to grow in those areas as well as on the field.”