University of Miami

Hurricanes seniors reflect on years at UM as they approach home finale

Then-UM coach Al Golden embraces cornerback Tracy Howard before a game against Boston College at Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012.
Then-UM coach Al Golden embraces cornerback Tracy Howard before a game against Boston College at Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012. Miami Herald Staff

Hurricanes senior cornerback Tracy Howard was asked this week how he would describe his experience at Miami.

“I’d say it’s been ummmm, mmmm – interesting,’’ he finally said. “In-ter-es-ting.’’

Senior receiver Herb Waters was asked the same thing.

“Bittersweet,’’ Waters answered.

Linebacker Tyriq McCord used the word “challenging.’’

And senior safety Dallas Crawford described his five years at UM as “fun.’’

All four, plus more than a dozen others, will be honored Saturday on Senior Day in UM’s final home game of 2015, a 12:30 p.m. kickoff against Georgia Tech (3-7, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference).

The Hurricane (6-4, 3-3) seniors have withstood all kinds of road blocks during their four or five years with the program – the NCAA investigation and sanctions, fan wrath aimed in particular at former coach Al Golden and current defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, and the recent firing of Golden.

They qualified for bowl games in 2011 and 2012, but couldn’t play because of self-imposed postseason bans that, in 2012, would have included playing for the ACC title as well. They lost their bowl games the next two seasons.

Their record since 2012: 28-20. The fifth year seniors’ record since 2011: 34-26.

“A lot of us came in for the same reason, and all of us didn’t achieve the goals we wanted to achieve,’’ said McCord, who has 23 tackles, 3 ½ tackles for loss and 1 ½ sacks this year. “But we still stuck through it, we still hung around, we still had love for each other and were there for each other no matter what.

“It’s really a brotherhood when you think about it. There is so much we’ve gone through that other people haven’t gone through and we’re still here today.’’

Waters said he and his fellow seniors “made the best of what we had and continued to move forward… Everybody has so much love for each other here.’’

Crawford, who has 26 tackles and a fumble recovery this season, earned his undergraduate degree and is working on his masters. He lauded his classmates for persevering. He said that would be their legacy.

“We stayed. We fought through. Now we’ve opened the door for the young guys like [safety] Jaquan [Johnson] and [cornerback Sheldrick] Redwine. You know, the sky is the limit for those guys.”

Howard, with 24 tackles and three pass breakups, was a Miramar High School five-star recruit who could have played anywhere but chose his hometown school. He said this week that he doesn’t regret it.

“It’s been fun,’’ Howard said. “I got an opportunity to come to a great university. I got an opportunity to play ball. I got an opportunity to move to the next level. I met a lot of people that I truly love and built relationships with and that I’m going to talk to for the rest of my life.

“I’ve made best friends. And I met people outside of football that I think I can network and connect with.’’

Howard then gave a plug for the South Florida kids who stayed in the 305.

“I’m from Miami, so I think I made a great decision to come here,’’ he said. “I know we ain’t winning national championships, but at the end of the day it still worked out in my favor, in a lot of our favors... People don’t understand how it can change your life and what it can do for you down the road.”

How fast have the years gone?

“When you’re at the end, it went by fast,’’ Howard said. “But it didn’t go by that fast. It is what it is. You can’t be here forever. I’m ready to move on.’’

So is safety Deon Bush, a Miamian who will be accompanied by his mother and father Saturday in the pregame ceremony.

“Time flies, man,’’ Bush said Wednesday. “It feels like yesterday I started my first game against Bethune-Cookman at Sun Life Stadium. This is my last game there. We have to make the best of it.’’

Related stories from Miami Herald