Even before University of Miami coach Mark Richt graced his recent youth camp with the moniker “Paradise’’ because of his love of South Florida, Texas graduate transfer Adrian Colbert had discovered the word to his liking.
“Oh my gosh,’’ the cornerback said in early June at a community service event in Coconut Grove. “It’s paradise here. Every day I come out to sun and clouds, and then I go train at the beach. It’s just lovely here.”
Life got even lovelier for Colbert on Thursday when he picked off quarterback Brad Kaaya on the opening day of preseason camp.
With 4.36-second 40-yard speed, Colbert, a sturdy 6-2 and 205 pounds, might be getting a lot more first-team reps if he keeps playing as well as coaches say he has.
“He’s just real fast, man,’’ Kaaya said.
“Super fast. He can track some distance, just get down there. He’s a guy who can stay stride for stride with some of our fastest guys.’’
Colbert, who graduated from Texas on May 20 with a major in corporate communications, was a safety who made the switch to cornerback to help bolster UM’s depleted position group after losing first-round draft pick Artie Burns to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tracy Howard as a free agent to the Cleveland Browns.
“I like him,” UM coach Mark Richt said Friday of Colbert.
“I liked him since the day he got here — his energy, his maturity. He has been at a great program.’’
Richt’s response when asked how Colbert is doing in the transition from safety to cornerback, and if he’ll get playing time: “Oh yeah. He’ll play. He’ll play a lot. He’ll play on special teams, too. He’s long, athletic, fast. I know most every safety works on man coverage skills anyway. He’s not really that rusty at all.”
Colbert, a four-star recruit out of Mineral Wells High in Texas, was coached by former Texas/current UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz in his first season in 2012 and part of his redshirt freshman season before Diaz was released.
He played in all 13 games in each of the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and mostly on special teams in 2015, not registering any statistics.
“I didn’t play a lot,’’ he told the Miami Herald in June. “They only had me on the backside of special teams — gunner on kickoff, basically the far-side gunner away from the kick. And then they had me at gunner on punt, away from the punt. They basically put me everywhere I couldn’t make plays.’’
On Friday, he said “it feels great’’ to be wearing the orange and green. “The coaches love me, and I love the coaches because they give me equal respect and they’re straight up. They give you constructive criticism, and they’re not trying to bring you down.
“… [Thursday] I felt like I had butterflies. The whole day was just like, ‘Oh my God, I’m actually out here playing ball again.’ I missed it so much. …’’
Colbert said he chose UM because he had personal relationships with Diaz and Canes safeties coach Ephraim Banda — a defensive graduate assistant at Texas from 2012-15.
“I’ve always dreamed of going to the NFL, and I felt like being at Texas was only hindering me from getting my dream,” Colbert said. “Coming here was the best opportunity for me to go forward.’’
Colbert will join starter Corn Elder and fellow first-teamer Sheldrick Redwine, as well as six inexperienced corners.
“He’s good with his hips, he can run, and he has great ball skills,’’ receiver Braxton Berrios said. “He’s strong, too — a good-sized dude.’’
Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said adding Colbert, “an older figure,” has forced his players “to compete at a different level.’’
“Adrian does it every day,’’ Rumph said. “He looks the part. He’s 22. He’s in great shape. … He looks like he’s been playing there his whole life.’’
Colbert doesn’t intend to be a backup for long, an attitude Diaz, who expects his players to compete hard, embraces.
“I didn’t come here to come off the bench,’’ Colbert said.
As for Kaaya, don’t expect for him to be fooled by Colbert again.
“We had kind of a go and an out route,’’ Kaaya said of Thursday’s interception, explaining that “Colbert kind of sank on’’ an out route as if he were going to intercept the ball, “then kind of dropped back as I threw it. It tricked me. Won’t happen again, though.’’