UM’s Scott Patchan speaks after practice
Scott Patchan’s father Matt earned two University of Miami national championship rings as a left tackle — one for the Hurricanes’ first title in 1983 and another in 1987.
Al Blades’ late father Al Sr., a gregarious, aggressive safety, laid the groundwork for Miami’s last title team in 2001.
Together, the legacy Hurricanes — Patchan is a fifth-year senior defensive end and Blades, a sophomore cornerback — have emerged as defensive leaders intent on bringing an already heralded defense to new heights in 2019.
“I feel like I’ve been here for a long time and haven’t lived up to the expectations I set for myself coming into college,’’ Patchan, who is practicing at first-team opposite standout junior Jon Garvin, said Thursday after the fifth session of spring practice. “Definitely just trying to hold myself to the highest standard possible... I’m pushing myself to a whole new level.”
Blades, a sophomore who excelled on special teams last season and earned the rare honor of being named captain for two games, was a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High consensus four-star prospect intent on following his dad’s lead. He did so by doing things the right way from the start.
“Obviously when a kid grows up a legacy they grow up with a great deal of pride in this university before they ever step on campus,’’ new defensive coordinator Blake Baker said Thursday. “That probably has more to do with them than me. We’re production based. I don’t care if your dad went here [or] to North Dakota State, it doesn’t matter. But I think it’s pretty cool. Growing up and bleeding orange and green is added probably motivation for them.’’
Baker acknowledged that the legacy factor likely puts more self-imposed pressure on those players. Another Hurricane whose father starred at UM is tight end Michael Irvin, back actively practicing after knee surgery last season.
“You want to outdo your dad,’’ Baker said. “That’s kind of how you grow up in most cases. We talk about you can’t control that. If you put that added pressure on yourself you’re just doing yourself a disservice.
Baker lauded Patchan, a consensus four-star talent when he graduated from IMG Academy in Bradenton and chose Miami over offers from Florida State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and UCLA. After recuperating from two reconstructive surgeries to repair the ACL of his right knee, one following the first game of his high school senior season and the other in March 2016, Patchan switched to tight end during 2017 and back again to defensive end in 2018.
Playing as a reserve behind now-NFL-bound Joe Jackson and Garvin, Patchan had 29 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss , a sack, pass breakup, quarterback hurry and forced fumble.
“Patchan is a guy that is really giving us a lot of production early on, doing a lot of good things,’’ Baker said.
Patchan, 22, said he was measured at 6-6 and 255 pounds and is playing with about “eight or nine percent’’ body fat.
“But I’m moving quicker with the weight,’’ he said, crediting new strength and conditioning coach David Feeley for his improvement. “Obviously my weight has been an issue since I’ve been here.
“I’ve become more faithful recently with my father,’’ Patchan added. “God’s got a plan... I’m enjoying the moment, enjoying the process. You’ve got to love the process to be a football player, especially at the University of Miami where there are already high standards. And I’m setting even higher standards because there’s the whole legacy issue.
“It’s not like pressure or anything, but he set a standard and I gotta hold myself accountable. Am I living up to that standard? I played last year, but did I do anything worth mentioning? Absolutely not. I gotta hold myself to an even higher standard. It’s just an attacking mentality I have right now.’’
All Matt Patchan said when he heard his son’s words: “Isn’t that beautiful that he’s growing in the Lord? I’m very happy and proud of that.’’
Blades, though still going through growing pains, has been intensely serious and studious from the start.
UM co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Ephraim Banda said last week that “all but probably Al their freshman year really did not understand how important it is for them to practice.’’
Baker noted that Blades, like the other young players, is working on consistency. “He knows what to do.’’
“Right now I’m focused on learning the playbook like the back of my hand,’’ said Blades, who had 13 tackles in 2018 and was recently measured at 6-1 and 188 pounds, with 4.7 percent body fat. “Last season was a rocky season for the team, so emotionally it was very up and down. You have fun when you’re winning... Only time can tell what we’re going to grow into.’’
Regarding his dad’s legacy — Al Blades Sr. played at UM from 1996 through 2000 and died in a car crash in 2003 after celebrating his 26th birthday — Al Jr. said, “Once you get off the field, that’s very special to you. But once you’re on the field you’re just the same as any one of these guys out here.’’
Blades also is the nephew of his dad’s former famous football-playing UM and NFL brothers Brian and Bennie. Brian was a UM receiver from 1984 to 1987 and played for the Seattle Seahawks for 11 seasons. Bennie is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 1987 before spending nine seasons with the Detroit Lions and ending his career with Brian in Seattle.
“It’s up to me to prove myself as a man first,’’ Al Jr. said, “and then whatever I do as a man become the best I can be and uphold the legacy... There’s always that level where you can be good, you can be great or you can be legendary. Right now you don’t want to be stuck at good or great. You just want to try to reach for the top.”