When Mike Rumph’s playing days came to an end five years ago, the former University of Miami cornerback and San Francisco 49ers‘ first-round pick didn’t exactly picture himself leading Plantation American Heritage into Friday’s Class 5A state football championship at the Citrus Bowl Orlando.
Rumph thought he was going to be working with puppies.
“When I retired in 2007 with the Rams, I opened up a puppy store near Bal Habour with my wife [Veronica],” said Rumph, who won a national title in 2001 with the Hurricanes and spent five years in the pros.
“Puppies are the cutest thing ever, and the best part is they don’t talk back. We had Maltese, Yorkies, Shih Tzus, schnauzers, dachshunds — all tea cup sized, 11 pounds or less. It was a good business to start off. Then the economy changed so we closed the store after two years.”
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Rumph went from puppies to personal training (he worked with former Hurricane Demarcus Van Dyke to prepare him for the draft). That quickly escalated to joining the coaching staff at Everglades High School in 2010. Rumph said he did it “out of convenience” because it was a five-minute jog from his home in Miramar.
“Once I started coaching and got a chance to work with the defensive backs at Everglades, I was sold,” said Rumph, who left after one season and made a brief pit stop at Carol City the following spring before joining Heritage’s staff as defensive coordinator that fall.
“Just to teach the kids what I know and learned in the NFL has been rewarding,” he said. “If a kid can learn those things at 14, the sky is the limit for them.”
Before Rumph replaced Jeff Dellenbach as coach, Heritage had only made one other state finals appearance in 1998. Heading into Friday’s game, a 1 p.m. kickoff against Green Cove Springs Clay (9-4), the Patriots (13-1) have won their four playoff games by an average of 30 points.
Heritage’s only loss this season came to Miami Central. The Rockets are ranked third nationally by USA Today and will play in Saturday’s Class 6A state title game.
Rumph, whose son Jalen, 12, plays football on Heritage’s junior high team, and whose daughter Sienna, 7, runs track, believes Friday’s game is just the first step in Heritage becoming another Broward County football dynasty.
“The main thing he’s brought is a different mentality,” said former Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain, who coaches defensive backs at Heritage and is one of four coaches on staff with NFL experience (former Dolphins receiver Oronde Gadsden coaches receivers and former Bills safety Daryl Porter is the defensive coordinator).
“This team has always had talent — ever since [star running back] Sony [Michel] was in the eighth grade,” Surtain said. “I think the great thing Coach Rumph did was the scheduling. He didn’t schedule all those cupcakes. You can see this year in the playoffs we’ve been rolling people and it’s due to the teams we played early.”
This past summer, Rumph also challenged his team with a 41-day workout plan he says he borrowed from /George/ Smith at /St. Thomas/ Aquinas. The idea? No long summer vacations; just dedication to your teammates.
“The one thing about me is I listen and I learn,” Rumph said.
He also knows Friday’s opportunity to win a state championship is special.
“I played football 15 years straight and I only won one championship — my ’01 [Miami] Hurricanes season — so this doesn’t come by often,” Rumph said. “I’m making sure they’re informed and understand this isn’t just a pushover. It’s a game and we have to play our best football.”