Florida International U

FIU Panthers walk-on makes a quick impression

Recruiting sites, those imperfect analysts of how boys will become men, graded most of FIU’s 2013 recruiting class as dollar-store quality but generally praised the defensive backs. Logical then that a freshman cornerback moved up fast enough to take second-team reps Wednesday and pick off starting quarterback Jake Medlock.

Except that this freshman cornerback, Brad Hyman-Muhammad, is a walk-on who joined the team only a week before training camp started.

While Hyman-Muhammad got a look with the second-team defense, freshman linebacker Treyvon Williams spent another day as the middle linebacker in the second-team defense.

“They’ve earned the right to do that with their play,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “I’ve asked the defensive coaches on several occasions about 52 [Williams]. I’ve said, ‘Fifty-two has caught my eye. Is he playing as well as it looks? As instinctive as it looks like to me?’ The defensive coaches confirmed that, yes. He’s earned that, so has 20 [Hyman-Muhammad].

“We’re going to put the best guys on the field,” he continued. “We don’t care if they’re freshmen, transfers, returning guys or whatever. The guys who are learning it and executing it on the field, making plays [will play].”

Williams, however, is a scholarship player, a two-star recruit out of Miami Norland High who committed to FIU and signed on National Signing Day. Hyman-Muhammad, unrated by Scout.com, Rivals.com, ESPN.com and unlisted on 247Sports.com, counts almost as a bonus for FIU.

He said his recruiting turned on an ankle or, more accurately, a high ankle sprain late his senior year at St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy. Playing both ways, Hyman-Muhammad ended the season with 45 catches for 904 yards (20.1 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns as a wide receiver and gained Class 2A first-team All-State honors.

“I believe I’m a better corner, but I played receiver for my high school my last year because we were low on receivers,” he said. “I’m a very athletic person so I can make things happen on offense. But I was always trained to be a corner.”

He said his Football Bowl Subdivision school offers dried up and the one Football Championship Subdivision school which had offered him filled up on defensive backs. The ankle healed well enough that Hyman-Muhammad ran the second leg on Farragut’s 400 relay team that finished third in the 2013 Class 1A state track meet.

One of his high school coaches knew FIU running backs coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker, and Hyman-Muhammad contacted Hayes-Stoker. After enrolling during the summer, he said he kept working out on his own and dropping by the coaches’ offices asking if they had room on the roster.

“I was just waiting and waiting for a long time,” Hyman-Muhammad said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play this year. I got the OK to come on the team a week before training camp started. I was determined to make the team, I was showing up every day, making my face known to the coaches.”

That has already happened.

“Brad’s been outstanding,” FIU secondary coach Jason Brooks said. “He’s fit in great with the group. He’s picking up on what we’re doing. It’s a pleasure to come out and coach him, and he wants to be coached.”