It was August 2013, and newly arrived University of Miami rush end Al-Quadin “Quan” Muhammad talked tough.
“Some of the moves I have and things I do is just God-given talent,” the 6-3, 230-pounder told reporters he faced for the first time. “Some things I do and moves I make, you’ve probably never seen a guy make before.
“Any move I see I put some swag on it.”
The swag is back.
So is Muhammad — just a little older, a lot more intimidating and coaches likely hope significantly wiser after being suspended by the university for the fall semester and returning for spring practice.
“I think I’m a hell of a football player,” he announced Saturday.
Is he a better one?
“Definitely,” he said.
Muhammad, now 260 pounds of muscle and on-field meanness, talked to reporters for the first time Saturday on the Hurricanes’ first day in full pads.
“I don’t really want to talk about last year,” he said. “I want to focus on now.”
The former four-star recruit out of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, New Jersey, was basically kicked off campus and not allowed to enroll in classes until he returned in January for the spring term. He was punished for a confrontation with a former roommate that left the roommate with a broken nose, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the situation. The incident occurred in the parking lot at Sun Life Stadium after the April 12 spring game.
In September, Muhammad was involved in a police episode in which he was not charged. It revolved around a woman, whom he told police he didn’t realize was a prostitute until she demanded $800 from him. According to an incident report, the woman eventually affirmed Muhammad’s claims.
He spent the past several months working during the day, and lifting weights and conditioning at LA Fitness in South Miami.
“I got stronger, I got faster, I got time to study the material more and get familiar with our defense, understand it and come out here and execute,” said Muhammad, a redshirt sophomore who finished the 2013 season with eight tackles and two sacks.
He recently changed his jersey number from 98 to his former 8 from high school, and he is grateful to be among his teammates again.
“This is home for me. This is my family. Coaches stuck by me. Players stuck by me,” he said.
Now back in school studying criminology, Muhammad said he never contemplated transferring.
“Why do that when the best of the best is right here?” said Muhammad, who hopes to become a dominant pass rusher for a program that sorely needs them.
Coach Al Golden and his players stood firmly in support of Muhammad through his ordeal.
“He’s a great kid,” Golden said. “He brings awesome energy, he’s a leader, and he’s real. He can identify with everybody in the locker room, and coaches — everybody in the building, really. It’s good to have his presence back. He’s part of our soul.”
Senior Tyriq McCord, who has been moved from defensive end back to outside linebacker, said the defensive line “feels complete” with Muhammad back.
“He just took it day by day,” McCord said. “It was unfortunate. He took all that anger — he wanted to be out there with us — and put it in the weight room.”
Quarterback Brad Kaaya said Saturday that he’s “really close friends” with Muhammad, whose physique he compared to the Incredible Hulk. Kaaya said they spoke constantly during the season.
“Every single week he was calling me, you know, [saying] ‘I wish I was out there. I’m dying to get back.’
“He’s a big leader for us. He’s really vocal, and he’s going to help our team not only on the field but in the locker room, too. It’s really good to have my boy back on the field.”