It was an event that had all in attendance reminiscing on their memories with Howard Schnellenberger and many more asking once again how he is not yet in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The man who gave birth to a University of Miami football dynasty with a national championship in 1983, built Florida Atlantic football from scratch at the turn of the millennium and coached as an assistant under Don Shula with the Dolphins in the 1970s was honored in a tribute dinner sponsored by The Miami Touchdown Club at the Signature Grand in Davie on Thursday night.
Those affiliated with Schnellenberger from all three of these South Florida football programs congregated to share stories at the dinner that also consisted of an auction of a series of local sports memorabilia items and an autograph session with Schnellenberger signing his book, Passing the Torch.
“I loved every moment of it, but it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever sat through,” Schnellenberger, 81, joked of the lengthy speeches when it was finally time for him to take the podium.
With former Hurricane Don Bailey Jr., who can now be heard on game-day UM radio broadcasts, as the master of ceremonies, references to Schnellenberger’s signature pipe and his go-to method of making players run gassers in practice were plentiful.
Several other speeches were emotional.
“When Coach Schnellenberger came to the University of Miami, he did not say once that we might win a national championship,” said Ray Bellamy, both the first African-American to earn an athletic scholarship at UM and first to become student body president. “He said we are going to win a national championship.”
Bellamy’s spirited speech had the ballroom silent as he quoted sentiments several other Hurricane greats had conveyed to him over the years and then had the crowd rise and applaud Schnellenberger at the culmination of it.
Dolphins great Nat Moore brought the comedy, mimicking Schnellenberger’s cavernous, deep-toned voice and torture on players in practice.
“I don’t know if this is supposed to be a tribute or a roast. Everyone’s being so nice to Howard,” Moore said. “If you played for Howard, there was nothing nice about you, bro.”
Said storied local sports anchor Tony Segreto: “Howard won three national championships with Alabama, was part of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins and led the University of Miami to its first national championship. It doesn’t happen by accident.”
Former FAU Owls were on hand to testify how much he meant to the athletic program of the school in Boca Raton.
“He treated every person that he knew as if they were family,” former FAU offensive lineman John Rizzo said. “He built that stadium. The north half of that campus is there because of Howard Schnellenberger.”
Attendees were served a three-course meal and watched video tributes in between speakers and during the meal from UM greats Jim Kelly and Vinny Testaverde, Dolphins legends Don Shula and Bob Griese, FAU standout Alfred Morris, Joe Namath, who was coached by Schnellenberger at Alabama, and Jeff Brohm, who played under him at Louisville.
Other speakers included Dolphins great Dick Anderson and Cirgile Sincere of FAU.