University of Miami

These Canes have big hearts and a burning desire for 'no bigger stage' than LSU opener

University of Miami Hurricane player Mike Harley (3) jumps rope at Tucker Elementary School in Coconut Grove on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. The players participated in a day of community service at Tucker Elementary where they interacted with kids by throwing footballs, playing basketball and hula hooping.
University of Miami Hurricane player Mike Harley (3) jumps rope at Tucker Elementary School in Coconut Grove on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. The players participated in a day of community service at Tucker Elementary where they interacted with kids by throwing footballs, playing basketball and hula hooping. mocner@miamiherald.com

It's almost summer, time for college football players to wind down and chill out — every now and then.

Reality: That University of Miami season opener against LSU is closer than you think.

Twenty-six Miami Hurricanes had loads of fun Wednesday at Frances S. Tucker Elementary School in Coconut Grove, addressing fourth and fifth graders in their classrooms, then playing basketball and tossing footballs and jumping rope with them on the playground.

"This takes your mind off some stressful stuff,'' said redshirt junior receiver Lawrence Cager.

'Stressful,' as in starting the season against the Tigers on Sept. 2 in Arlington, Texas at the AdvoCare Classic at At&T Stadium, also known as "Jerry's World'' for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

How do you like starting against LSU?

"Jerry’s World, there’s no bigger stage than that,'' senior standout cornerback Michael Jackson said. "The first game my senior year in Jerry’s World, that’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life."

Jackson said the feeling of starting against a major Southeastern Conference program is "different, but you have to look at it like that’s how you want it."

"You want the pressure to be on you,'' Jackson said. "But you have to do the same thing that got you to this point: Work hard, don’t pay attention to all the outside people, just listen to the people in our four walls at the university."

The Canes started summer conditioning and weight-training workouts on Monday of this week.

UM wide receiver Lawrence Cager during the fourth day of University of Miami football camp at Greentree Field on Friday, August 4, 2017.​

"You’re going to see a lot of different weights go up and our speed get faster,'' starting tailback Travis Homer said. "I definitely have to step up to that leadership position. I gotta try to fill Mark [Walton's] shoes."

Homer said he's looking forward to nationally touted tailback Cam Davis arriving for the second summer session that begins in late June, and that recently arrived fullback Realus George, 6-2 and 245 pounds, will provide much-needed blocking "and help diversify the offense.''

As for early enrollee Lorenzo Lingard, who was at Tucker on Tuesday, Homer said he has "great speed,'' but is still learning the offense. "There are just some things he needs to fix getting the plays down,'' Homer said, "but that’s what you expect from just being here for the spring. So over the summer we’re going to work with him and I know he’s going to get it down right."

Cager agreed that starting against LSU "lets us know how we are from the jump. It’s a real test." He said he is "beyond 100 percent" healthy after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee in July 2016, then experiencing knee pain again last season. "Spring really showed me that I don’t have to worry about my knee. It let me push past my mental psych [of], ‘Oh, what if you get hurt again?’ I’m just ready to play ball, ready to play LSU."

UM receiver Ahmmon Richards, who was carted off the field on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, spoke about UM's season on Tuesday after practice.

Ahmmon Richards was in great spirits Wednesday, speaking to children about how he once got suspended "in fourth grade'' but has never gotten in trouble since. He played hoops with the kids, and indicated his surgically repaired meniscus of his left knee was ready to go.

"Don’t cheat the training room and don’t let your mind psych you out,'' Cager said he instructed Richards. "You can do possibly anything you can do if not better than what you could coming off the injury."

The freshmen who came to Tucker included included safety Gurvan Hall, defensive end Gregory Rousseau, cornerback DJ Ivey, cornerback Gilbert Frierson, receiver Brian Hightower and Lingard.

Frierson, who is cousins with UM great Frank Gore and graduated from Coral Gables High, attended Tucker Elementary and visited his former fifth grade classroom.

"It's a great feeling to come back and see the kids here,'' Frierson said. "Seeing them is motivation for me, knowing what I can do for my community.''

Jackson said he still recalls being one of those young Canes.

"It’s funny,'' Jackson said. "I remember the first time I did mat drills. I remember the first workout, the look on their faces, those looks, like, ‘I’m really in college.’ ...I just tell them, ‘There are going to be days when you’re really thinking, ‘Is this for me?’ All you have to do is tell yourself, ‘Just make it to the next day, and eventually it will get easier.’’’

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