Ex-Canes star Lamar Thomas to coach against alma mater when Louisville faces UM

A Cane at heart, Lamar Thomas goes against his alma mater as Louisville receivers coach in the season-opener on Monday.

08/27/2014 6:33 PM

09/08/2014 8:20 PM

University of Miami basketball point guard Jessica Thomas chatted with Hurricanes football player Herb Waters this week.

“Get the win at Louisville!” Thomas implored Waters, a receiver. “And when you do, tell my brother I said, ‘Hey!”’

Yup, spoken like a true Thomas.

Lamar Thomas, Jessica’s oldest brother, is not only one of the biggest Canes fans who ever walked the planet, not only a star receiver for UM national championship teams in 1989 and ’91, not only a recent inductee into the UM Sports Hall of Fame … he’s the new receivers coach for the Louisville Cardinals, who will meet the Hurricanes in the season opener at 8 p.m. Monday in Kentucky.

“He’s been talking noise and it’s been going on for some time now,” Jessica, 19, said Tuesday. “I don’t even listen to what he says anymore.”

Among a group of Miami old-timers who are never short of words, Lamar Thomas, 44, can keep up with the best of them.

“One of the things I was taught at Miami was to be very passionate about what you do,” Thomas said. “I have to do my job. I love going to work every day. Unfortunately, my alma mater is the first team on the list. I’m trying to get my guys a victory.

“It’s a little bittersweet.”

Thomas arrived at Louisville in 2014 after coach Bobby Petrino, known as one of the great offensive minds in football, brought him from Western Kentucky, where they coached together last season.

“He’s great; he’s a genius,” Thomas said of Petrino during an interview on the night last April that he was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame. “He demands perfection, and as a player I liked being around coaches like that. It’s a natural fit for me. He loves my energy and passion for the game.

“The reason he first hired me was he remembered coming down to visit [former UM] Coach [Dennis] Erickson and seeing me — a young, skinny kid — conduct a meeting, then go to practice and have fun while working hard. He said he never forgot about my passion.”

As written in his Hall of Fame bio, Thomas “escaped the hostile environs of Gainesville to become one of the most accomplished Hurricane receivers of all time.” He left UM after the 1992 season as the school’s all-time leader in career receptions with 144 and was second in career receiving yards with 2,271 and in touchdown passes caught with 23.

Thomas’ legacy is also tied to the 1993 Sugar Bowl, when Alabama’s George Teague stripped the ball from Thomas as Thomas sprinted toward a would-be touchdown. ’Bama went on to win the game and the national championship.

And who could forget when Thomas was a TV analyst and lost his job over comments he made during the last FIU-UM game in 2006, when dozens of players stormed the field and got into a huge brawl.

“Now, that’s what I’m talking about!” a fired-up Thomas said. “You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked. …”

UM linebackers coach Hurlie Brown, who played with Thomas in college, still keeps in touch with him. Micheal Barrow, the linebackers coach Brown recently replaced, was Thomas’ roommate as a freshman. UM coach Al Golden said he, Barrow and offensive coordinator James Coley met Thomas purely by coincidence at Miami Booker T. Washington High last January on the first day coaches were allowed to actively recruit.

“I get a knock on the door and they say, ‘Someone wants to talk to you,’ ” Thomas said, “and it’s my roommate Micheal Barrow.”

Said Golden: “Lamar has always been good to me since I’ve been at Miami. I’m really happy for him professionally. He’s on his journey as a coach and enjoying it. That’s all that matters.”

Added Brown: “You know how it is. We’re buddies until game time, and then he’s the enemy until the game is over. This place is definitely in his heart. It’s hard not to be once you’ve been a part of this and understand the dynamics.”

Though Thomas won’t have his injured star receiver DeVante Parker for the game, he’ll have a talented crop nonetheless, including Miami Northwestern graduate Eli Rogers, a senior who has 1,495 career receiving yards.

“Yeah, coach Thomas has told us some of the stories from when he was at Miami,” Rogers told the Herald through a UL email. “We heard he was a great player at Miami, but we’re excited he’s our coach.

“He brings a lot of energy every day to our practice, and that rubs off on the wide receivers. Even when we aren’t feeling it, he is going to get it out of us.”

Thomas played eight seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and ended his pro career with the Dolphins from 1996-2000. He returned to UM to get his bachelor’s degree in 2008 and still comes to watch his sister play basketball.

“He told me I wouldn’t be able to wear my Miami stuff in Louisville,” said Jessica, who won’t be able to travel to the game and will watch it on TV with her teammates. “I’ll be wearing a Miami T-shirt, Miami shorts, Miami socks, Miami everything. Lamar just keeps on rambling. I even nominated him for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and he responded, ‘Come on, I’m getting ready for you all!’

“I’m going to tell him, ‘Don’t forget where you came from.’ ”

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