Trent Harris, Chad Thomas, Kc McDermott and Shaq Quarterman celebrated with the 300 or so attendees Thursday night at the University of Miami’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility.
Every one of them seemed genuinely pleased, but only one will enjoy the result of the labor that is set to begin Monday on Greentree Field, as construction officially begins.
While defensive ends Harris and Thomas and offensive lineman McDermott will be seniors in 2017, linebacker Quarterman will be entering his junior season when the facility, expected to be among the nicest in the nation, is slated to open by fall camp of 2018.
Regardless, Thomas said it means “a lot’’ to him to have this for the program.
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“I’ve been to a lot of colleges and they’ve got this on their campus,’’ Thomas said. “I know the difference of what this could make. I still love the U without it, but this will be like something big for the players that are coming in. The high school players, they see this, you know, they love the indoor facility…”
When asked if he felt as if things are coming together for the program, Thomas said, “Yeah, you know, if you look back on the history of the U, it’s been a rocky road – ups and downs. But right now it’s on a path going up, and Coach [Mark] Richt started it all.
“The coach can only do so much, and this right here, this is a lot. Even he donated [$1 million] to the facility. So, that’s a lot that a coach can do.’’
Said McDermott, whose older brother, Shane, also played for Miami: “Hopefully it’ll be done by my Pro Day. But honestly, I’m so thankful for everyone who is here and all the donors. A lot of people don’t know that these donors also fund the program, and a lot of them don’t have anything to do with our program. They’re just people that have a sense of pride in Miami and the school itself.
“For them to give their money in the way that they have over the past year since Coach Richt started this project has been amazing. To feel their support is all I need to have.’’
McDermott said that for the younger players, the facility will “make a big difference’’ because “they’re going to have the ability to not miss out on any practices or workouts. We had to practice at the Dolphins facility during FSU week and everything was a little out of sorts. But now we’re going to have this indoor facility and they won’t miss any time.’’
Harris said the facility plans were “awesome.’’ He said that “in the past three years there were multiple times where we had thunderstorms and had to sit inside, go back out and the lightning alarm would go off again and it would really take a lot of time away from our practice time.’’
Quarterman agreed the indoor practice facility would be “a blessing,’’ as his coach has said repeatedly.
“This right here is very exciting. It’s a blessing and a tremendous honor to be here. I can’t wait for that facility. It messes up our practice when the [lightning] sensor goes off. it’s going to be great to come inside and still get work done. We’re trying to climb heights right now. We can’t do it if we’ve got to go inside [and wait] everytime we get rain in Miami.”
Former Canes cornerback, receiver and return specialist Devin Hester, who has the NFL all-time record for combined punt/kickoff returns for touchdowns, came to the ceremony with his wife, Zhinga. Hester, who lives in Orlando, was mentored by Carol Soffer when he played at UM from 2003 through 2005.
Soffer has been a major donor to UM athletics for decades, but it was her three children who contributed $14 million of the $34 million needed to build the indoor practice facility.
“Miss Carol, from Day One when I met her, you see this lovely lady and you’re like, ‘Does she really love football?’’’ Hester said. “But then you get to know her and say, ‘Wow, this is a lady that loves football.’ I spent a lot of time with her in college and afterward into the NFL, we always kept in contact. She even came to my baby’s shower. She’s a great lady.’’