Tracye Wilkerson, the mother of University of Miami star recruit Sam Bruce, recalled the first time she met Bruce’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School teammate Michael Irvin II. It was the spring of 2015, she said, and he was rumbling down her Fort Lauderdale street in a matte-black Hummer.
“I looked up and here comes this kid driving something that looked like a freaking tank,’’ Wilkerson said. “This big old kid gets out of the car and walks up my sidewalk. I said, ‘Sam, who is that kid?’
“He said, ‘Mom, that’s Michael Irvin II.’ ’’
Irvin II, son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin — a three-time Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl winner and Miami Hurricane legend — on Wednesday will join Bruce in signing a letter of intent to play football with the Hurricanes.
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Irvin, 6-3 and 230 pounds, is a smart, dependable, big-bodied receiver/tight end/H-back who will play tight end at Miami and is rated three stars by the major recruiting services.
Bruce, 5-8 and 180 pounds, is a blazing-fast, compact but muscular four-star receiver considered along with early quarterback signee Jack Allison the prize of this year’s UM recruiting class. He will line up at slot and is also known for his punt and kickoff-return prowess.
The two are the only UM commits from the Class 7A state champion Raiders, and they are as different in demeanor as they are in body type and playing style.
“What’s so crazy to me,’’ Sam Bruce’s mom said, “is that you go back and look at big Michael when he played at UM, and Sam’s style is more like his — flamboyant with an on-field arrogance. And the younger Michael is laid-back and reserved. He’s a little oil to Sam’s vinegar.’’
Together, they hope to add zest to a UM offense that will lose receivers Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters to the NFL Draft. The St. Thomas teammates will be much-needed future targets for Canes standout quarterback Brad Kaaya. As of Saturday, the two were the only pass-catching commits who were definitely headed to Miami.
Several other receivers could become Canes, but that will depend on last-minute decisions based on various visits and competing schools. Dionte Mullins, a talented, four-star receiver and UM commit out of Miami Gulliver, is an Under-Armour All-American in jeopardy of not qualifying academically. Among the rest, U.S. Army All-American Ahmmon Richards from West Palm Beach decommited when Al Golden was fired but still might choose the Canes. And UM commit Latrell Williams of Lake City Columbia, rated the 110th best receiver by 247Sports, could still switch to Tennessee.
As for Bruce and Irvin, both are thrilled to be making Coral Gables their new home.
“Michael and I have built a great relationship and friendship this past year,’’ said the emotive Bruce, 18. “We’re definitely going to be looking after each other and making some big things happen in the next couple of years.
“We’re bringing the swag back. Failure is not an option.’’
Said Irvin of Bruce: “He was the first person to take me in right away like I was family.’’
Irvin, rated the 33rd best tight end by 247Sports.com, transferred from Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian to St. Thomas, where his father, now 49, grew up and played. He had 2,741 receiving yards and 34 touchdowns in three seasons at Prestonwood and 29 catches for 291 yards and two scores at St. Thomas, a football machine led by accomplished coach Roger Harriott.
“I did very well in Dallas,” Irvin said, “but it just seemed like I was becoming content with where I was. I was getting better, but I wasn’t progressing the way I wanted to.
“Playing for Miami is what I’ve been waiting for forever. I remember asking my grandmother when I was 6 or 7 if she would come see me play when I played for the Miami Hurricanes. Now I’ve made it happen, and it’s a big deal to me.’’
Irvin is tight with his father, who flew in with Michael’s mother, Sandy, to his games last season. The elder Irvin, an NFL Network analyst in Honolulu this weekend to coach in the Pro Bowl, is clearly excited about Michael II playing for the Canes.
“What a thrill 2 go thru da recruiting process w my son @M_Irvin17,’’ Michael Sr. tweeted recently to his 405,000 Twitter followers with a photo of new UM coach Mark Richt, Irvin, his son, tight ends coach Todd Hartley and Tony Sands throwing up the U during a home visit. “Luv discussing da thoughts & plans Coach has 4 Da U.’’
When asked if there is added pressure being the son of an all-time great, Irvin, 18, didn’t hesitate.
“Yes, there is,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of pressure, and I guess there’s supposed to be. There’s nothing I can do about it. I have a great name. I’m very blessed.’’
Bruce, whose family members grew up loving the Hurricanes, also has gifted genes. His uncle is former NFL great receiver Isaac Bruce. The Under-Armour All American (46 catches for 427 yards and four touchdowns in 2015), rated the nation’s 11th best receiver by 247Sports.com, transferred to St. Thomas from University School for his final two seasons. He won a state title for Harriott at each of the schools.
“Sam Bruce is a difference-maker,’’ said Charles Fishbein, a recruiting analyst for Elite Scouting Services. “He’s explosive. He can make an impact right away in the return game. The kid comes from two winning programs. When the game is tight, Sam Bruce is going to make a play to help UM win a game that maybe they shouldn’t have won.’’
Harriott called Bruce “acrobatic, elusive and agile. He’s dangerous on the field.’’
The young Irvin is versatile, the coach said. “He can play various positions, from the backfield set to an attached tight end to the slot to fullback. We had a short-yardage package with him at quarterback. He’s a chain-mover.’’
Irvin said he needs to talk with his dad about possibly redshirting. Like most freshmen, he’s hoping to play immediately.
To Bruce, it’s not even a topic of discussion.
“My goal this year is to contribute and do whatever I have to do to make my team successful,’’ he said. “I’m ready to put my city back on the map.’’
UM’s 2016 commitments
*Jack Allison (QB)
* Patrick Bethel (LB)
Sam Bruce (WR)
St. Thomas Aquinas
Tyler Byrd (CB)
Jovani Haskins (TE)
Travis Homer (RB)
WPB Oxbridge Academy
Michael Irvin II (TE)
St. Thomas Aquinas
Joseph Jackson (DE)
*Zach McCloud (OLB)
Lake Worth Santaluces
Dionte Mullins (WR)
*Michael Pinckney (ILB)
*Shaquille Quarterman (ILB)
Orange Park Oakleaf
Latrell Williams (WR)
Lake City Columbia
Cedrick Wright (S)
Malek Young (CB)