Two of the three former players who were inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame before Tuesday night’s game earned their spot in games played in the actual Orange Bowl.
But it’s not like Bob Brudzinski and Warrick Dunn don’t know their way around Sun Life Stadium, either.
Brudzinski and Dunn both had long NFL careers, with Brudzinski playing much of his with the Dolphins — including the final three seasons at then-Joe Robbie Stadium.
“We played in four bowl games when I was at Ohio State, and we came to Miami in my senior year,” said Brudzinski, who helped the Buckeyes beat Colorado in the 1977 Orange Bowl Classic before being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams.
“We had the best time here. The Orange Bowl committee really treated us great. They know how to put on a great party and know how to treat people. Being back down there on the field was really neat. It was pretty special.”
Brudzinski, best known today for his nine Bru’s Room sports restaurants, watched the game in the Dolphins’ alumni suite just feet from a large picture of Don Shula, his former coach. He said being honored by a South Florida institution such as the Orange Bowl is special considering he has called the region home since 1981. Brudzinski, part of Miami’s famed Killer B’s defense, played in Super Bowl XVII and XIX with the Dolphins.
Dunn, as expected, got the loudest cheers as the former FSU running back smiled and took it all in. Dunn was part of FSU’s first national championship, a title won in the Orange Bowl with a victory against Nebraska in 1994.
He later returned with the Seminoles after the 1995 season to play Notre Dame in what was scheduled to be the final Orange Bowl game played in its namesake stadium.
The Orange Bowl ended up being played in Little Havana once more as Florida and Syracuse used it in 1999 because of a conflict with a Dolphins playoff game.
“My first year was the national championship game, and there was so much hype. But I was young. I just had a great time,” Dunn said. “We had so many fans down here, it just felt like home. Those two games we played in really felt like a home game.”
Former Miami Sunset standout Torrance Marshall (Oklahoma, 2001) was the third former player honored. His Sooners played their game at Sun Life Stadium, and he was a defensive captain of an Oklahoma team that shut out FSU’s offense to claim the 2000 national title. Marshall was named MVP of the 2001 game after making six tackles and intercepting Chris Weinke.
How did all those young Northern Illinois fans make it to Miami Gardens? Many took advantage of a sweet offer from the school.
For $150, NIU students were given a ticket to the Orange Bowl game as well as a bus ride from campus and two nights in a South Florida hotel and a couple of meals.
According to NIU, the students arrived Monday and will depart Wednesday. It took more than 24 hours to make the trek from campus in DeKalb, Ill. The school said more than 1,300 students took advantage of the deal, and 26 buses and 368 hotel rooms were needed.
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Some of those teammates-turned-rivals include NIU linebacker Jamaal Bass and FSU walk-on defensive back Owen Harris, who were members of Miramar’s 2009 state championship team.
The Seminoles haven’t played in the Orange Bowl since losing to Joe Paterno and Penn State 23-20 in triple overtime in 2006. Coming into Tuesday, FSU hadn’t won the Orange Bowl since beating Notre Dame 31-26 in 1996.