A small sign by the door of Jungle Island’s Hibiscus Room said “Capacity 120,” but at one point Thursday night, with about a fourth of that present, it seemed like the walls were bursting.
That’s how loud it got and full it was with some of the biggest names in University of Miami sports lore hugging, laughing and catching up on old times just minutes before the UM Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony began in the nearby ballroom.
Inductees Rusty Medearis (lettered from 1990-92, ’94), Jon Vilma (2000-03), Rob Chudzinski (1996-’03 coaching) and Kevin Patrick (1990-93) of football fame, whooped it up with fellow former football Canes Gerard Daphnis, Darrell Fullington, Darrin Smith, Mike Sullivan, Don Soldinger, Art Kehoe and 1992 Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta. Some had formerly been inducted. Two — Ted “the Mad Stork’’ Hendricks and Cortez Kennedy — are part of the UM and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
George Mira Sr. strolled the room for a bit, just minutes after Pete Taylor, the father of the late Sean Taylor, left for the ballroom filled with nearly 600 UM supporters. Sean, who died at age 24 after being shot by an intruder in his home in November 2007, was inducted posthumously and represented by his father.
“Very excited,” said Taylor, who got a standing ovation at the beginning of the ceremony. “One step at a time. One minute at a time. You take it all in.
“With all these great Hall of Famers tonight, they’ll make it easy for me. There’s so much to be happy and appreciative about here.
“It’s all about the U.”
Joining Pete Taylor and the others were fellow inductees Alex Fernandez (baseball, 1989), Olympic track and bobsled medalist Lauryn Williams (track, 2001-04), Chris Mantilla (diving, 1995-98) and Kym Hope (basketball, 1995-99).
UM Sports Hall of Fame executive director John Routh said Winston Moss (football, 1983-86) couldn’t make it because of a family issue.
“This is my last official event as president of the UM Sports Hall of Fame, and I’m so proud of this class,” said K.C. Jones, the former UM football center who was inducted in 2008. “This is the pinnacle of athletics at UM and represents a lot of people who came in here and didn’t accept the status quo. They wanted to push the limits and set the new standard of excellence at the University of Miami for a lot of people to follow.
“It’s an amazing class.”
Former UM offensive coordinator Chudzinski, now the associate head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, called the honor “awesome. I can’t tell you how many of these banquets I have come to through the years and had the chance to see some of the great players and coaches go into the Hall of Fame here.
“To ever think I’d be one of them is unbelievable.”
Vilma said he wished he could be surrounded Thursday by “all the guys” he played with at UM, especially Taylor.
“Bless his soul,” Vilma said. “His life ended too [soon].”
Hope was the Miami Herald Player of the Year when she led the Mustangs at Hollywood McArthur High.
She averaged 17.2 points and 8.7 rebounds as a UM senior in 1999 and finished her career in the top 10 in school history in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, blocked shots, free throw percentage, free throws made, free throw attempts and games played.
“In 2008, I came to this ceremony with my teammate, Octavia Blue,” said Hope, 37, whom Blue — a Hall of Famer — came to support Thursday. “I knew as a teammate she had worked so hard to get there, and for me to now be standing in the shoes she was in feels amazing.”