Willis McGahee and Kellen Winslow Jr., teammates on the Hurricanes’ 2001 national championship football team, headlined the eight new inductees to the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame, six of whom attended Thursday night’s induction ceremony at Jungle Island.
McGahee, a two-time Pro Bowl running back, was as confident as ever before the ceremony and began his news conference by correcting a reporter.
“You just said, ‘one of the greatest college teams of all-time,’ ” McGahee said. “I want to say we ARE the greatest college team of all-time.”
McGahee was as confident about new Hurricane football coach Mark Richt as he was about his college team’s place in history.
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“I know he’s going to change this program around,” McGahee said of Richt. “He’s played here. … He knows what it takes to get to the top.”
Richt attended the banquet to support Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya, who was awarded the Walter Kichefski Endowed Football Scholarship, presented in honor of the late Kichefski, who both played and coached football at Miami.
Richt received a standing ovation before giving opening remarks to the Jungle Island crowd.
“It’s wonderful to be back home,” Richt said. “If we stay the course and do things the way they ought to be done … we can get right back to where we belong.”
In addition to receiving his scholarship, Kaaya got to meet Winslow Jr., one of his favorite players both on the field and in video games.
“I used to use him on Madden when I was in middle school and high school,” Kaaya said of Winslow Jr. “He was always my first pick at his position.”
Winslow Jr. said he enjoyed meeting Kaaya and Richt, and expressed gratitude for his induction.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work,” Winslow Jr. said. “I’m just honored to be part of one of the best teams of all-time.”
In addition to McGahee and Winslow Jr., four other inductees attended Thursday’s ceremony.
Tamara James, a classmate of McGahee and Winslow Jr. and the all-time leading scorer in Hurricane women’s basketball history, called her induction “surreal.”
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” James said. “When I received the call I was sort of like, ‘me?’ I just feel like a bitty dot on the radar.”
James brought her 4-year-old son to the banquet, but 2005 Atlantic Coast Conference women’s tennis player of the year Megan Bradley Rose left her 2-year-old daughter at home.
Bradley attended UM with McGahee, Winslow Jr. and James, and she said that their accomplishments make her induction more meaningful.
“I know just how significant a contribution … they made to their individual sports,” Bradley said of her fellow inductees. “It’s a big deal.”
In addition to the four classmates, Will Allen and Charlie Hodgson also attended the banquet.
Allen, who was the first black basketball player at the school, played for the Hurricanes from 1969-71.
Hodgson, who was the coach of the 1976 swimming national title team, enters the Hall of Fame after years of pleading and letter-writing from his swimmers.
In addition to the six attendees, offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez and outfielder Jon Jay were also inducted into the Hall of Fame but could not attend the banquet.
Gonzalez was on vacation and Jay was at spring training with the San Diego Padres preparing for the 2016 Major League Baseball season.