UM cornerback Al Blades Jr. describes what it’s like to be named a freshman captain
The dream continues for Al Blades Jr.
Blades, 18, the son of late Miami Hurricanes standout safety Al Blades Sr., received an exceptionally rare honor this week.
While standing on the Greentree Practice Field, Blades learned from coach Mark Richt that after only two games of his inaugural college season, he would be one of four captains to represent No. 21 UM (1-1) for its next game at Toledo (1-0) at noon Saturday.
The young cornerback, whose father died in a car crash in 2003 after celebrating his 26th birthday, wasn’t quite sure that could be true.
“He called my name and I just... I still was in disbelief,’’ Blades, who wears his dad’s No. 7, told reporters Wednesday after practice. “I went around in practice asking, ‘Does that mean I’m going to be a captain?’’’
Yes, Al, it does.
“It’s very emotional for me,’’ said Blades, a 6-1, 185-pound Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High All-American legacy whose bloodline to the Hurricanes is deep with talent. Not only did his dad, a gregarious, charismatic, fiery All-Big East player who was a Hurricane from 1996 through 2000, play for the Canes, his dad’s former famous football-playing older brothers Brian and Bennie starred for the Canes and in the NFL.
Brian redshirted as a receiver in 1983 and played from 1984 to 1987 before being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round and playing there for 11 years.
Bennie, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 1987 and was drafted third overall by the Detroit Lions, where he spent nine seasons before ending his career in 1997 with Brian in Seattle.
“It means a lot,’’ Al Jr. said. “A lot of blood sweat and tears are being shed out here. I grew up watching everything.. I give 110 percent on every play, whether it’s on kickoffs or on punts. Every play, if you watch film, you see me. I’ve got to try to be the first guy downfield, the first to the ball, no matter what.”
Blades, who has three tackles in his first two games, will serve as captain with offensive guard Hayden Mahoney, defensive end Joe Jackson and safety Sheldrick Redwine as a special teams representative for his exemplary play. He starts on punt and kickoff with some of UM’s veteran standouts, and was thrust into his college debut after Trajan Bandy was ejected for targeting on the fourth play of the LSU opener.
“Guess what?’’ mimicked defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, “’Al Blades, you’re the nickel!’ in maybe one of the most intimidating settings of college football, Cowboys Stadium. And Al goes right in there and is playing like he’s playing catch in his backyard.
“Obviously, there’s something in his mental makeup and wiring that makes him believe that nothing is ever too big for him. ... He’s a special young man.’’
Special teams coordinator Todd Hartley couldn’t gush enough about Blades, who he said “wanted to be on the depth charts” and “worked his butt off in practice. You put him in game situations and he showed out. His performance is what earned him that spot.’’
Hartley relived a moment that apparently came at the end of the 77-0 UM thrashing of Savannah State.
“Hey, Al,’’ Hartley told Blades, who is fast and regarded as a strong tackler. “Why don’t you take this rep off? I’m going to get somebody else in there.’’
“He says, ‘No, I’m not coming out.’
“I said, ‘OK, all right, get back in there then.’’’
Blades conceded that he “was kind of shaking a little bit on the sideline’’ before he entered the LSU game. “But once I got in, it was just like, “This is what we do.’ I’m the type of kid, when I go in, it’s like tunnel vision.
“I’ve just learned hustle, demeanor and attitude is everything. I learned that little things do matter.’’
Blades’ teammates are thrilled with his early contributions. They have been shown old-school film of his dad making plays.
“We love Blades,’’ linebacker Zach McCloud said. “Blades is one of those guys who has a battery like [former UM star tailback] Mark Walton. He doesn’t tire out. He does everything perfect on special teams. He’s really in his playbook.
“I come back to the offense and he’s meeting with the coach and trying to go over assignments.
“He really cares.’’
▪ UM freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau, who broke his right ankle against Savannah State, underwent surgery on Wednesday... Receiver Ahmmon Richards (knee) was still sidelined and on a conditioning bike Wednesday, but defensive end Demetrius Jackson (knee) practiced for the second consecutive day.