South Florida owned the Senior Bowl in 2015.
But today, Jeremy Cash is a man on an island — just how the Duke University consensus All-American safety likes it.
Cash is the lone Miami-based prospect here for the annual football scouting event, quite the change from a year ago, when the University of Miami dominated the week.
But it’s a down year for UM, FIU and FAU — not to mention South Florida-bred players who went to college outside of the area.
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So Cash, who played his prep ball for Plantation, is the standard bearer this year. And he intends to do his hometown proud — even if he didn’t root for his hometown Dolphins as a kid.
“I actually grew up a Chargers fans, watching LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees, when he was there,” Cash said. “I always liked those guys.”
His allegiances will change, obviously, if the Dolphins draft him in three months — which isn’t terribly farfetched.
Cash — 6-2, 210 pounds — projects as an NFL strong safety.
The Dolphins have a need at that position. Reshad Jones had a Pro Bowl season playing centerfield in 2015, but the other safety position was a revolving door after Louis Delmas tore his ACL in the preseason.
“I definitely see myself more as a strong, because I like to punish people,” Cash said late Tuesday, after his first practice for the Senior Bowl’s South Team. “Throughout this week, the sole focus is to show people I can run sideline-to-sideline, that natural ability to do all of those things that they wondered if I could do.”
Cash added: “They’re making potentially a million-dollar investment in you. They want to go by more than word of mouth. For me to put it on tape, just flip on their TV and be able to see it, it’s right there in front of them.”
Cash has lit up television sets throughout ACC country since transferring to Duke as a sophomore. The highly-recruited defensive back originally picked Ohio State because of his relationship with then-coach Jim Tressel.
But Tressel resigned amid scandal before Cash played a single down for the Buckeyes. Cash played out his freshman season before transferring to Duke.
“When it comes to [Duke coach David Cutcliffe], he shared that same beliefs as coach Tressel,” Cash said. “He really cared about his players, both on and off the field. He has a track record of helping young boys turn into men by the time they leave his program, and that’s something that really attracted me.”
Cash added: “He’s a great coach but a better person.”
After sitting out his mandatory redshirt season, Cash quickly found a spot in Cutcliffe’s starting lineup.
He has been a force in the Blue Devils’ defensive backfield ever since. Cash’s nine career forced fumbles are most in program history, and he was named the ACC’s top defensive his senior year.
There’s no doubting his ability. There have been a few questions about Cash’s health, however. He had right wrist surgery back in December, but made it a point to participate in this week’s festivities.
And while Duke hasn’t had nearly the team success that Ohio State has enjoyed since Cash left campus — the Buckeyes won the national title in 2014 — Cash has no regrets about his decision.
“[Miami coach] Mark Richt probably had one of my favorite quotes of all time: ‘Rings collect dust. Life is about people,’” he said. “That resonated so highly with me, and he was right. I got a bunch of medals and rings and trophies and things like that sitting at home. They’re all just sitting there collecting dust. The relationships I built with all the individuals at Duke, you don’t find those every day. Those are a special group of people that will really be there for you now, or 10 years, 15 years down the road.”