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Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin was handed the microphone in front of a slew of prospects present for the Miami Hurricanes’ premier recruiting event, Paradise Camp, and as the Playmaker does, he delivered to get the campers amped to compete in drills in front of UM coaches, staff and former greats.
“You have to come to work right here. This is a battleground,” Irvin proclaimed, speaking to the way he and others to wear the Miami orange and green practiced hard to be prepared for big games. “When you battle right on the battleground, you can play great on the playground. That’s game day. These dudes right here (other Hurricanes alumni standing behind him), we bust butt on game day. That’s the playground. We did it because we battled on the battleground.”
And with that, roughly 300 high school football players were ready to participate between Greentree Practice Fields outside and the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility as rain came pouring down Saturday night at UM’s Coral Gables campus.
But it didn’t deter the current, past or future Hurricanes as coach Manny Diaz continued the tradition of the camp started in 2016 by previous coach Mark Richt, held every summer sans 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inside, veteran NFL All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell was giving rookie first-rounder Gregory Rousseau tips he can take into the next level with the Buffalo Bills this season. A peek outside revealed former receiver K.J. Osborn giving a young wideout pointers on how to catch the ball at the highest point. Diaz enjoyed watching as Irvin delivered his words to the youngsters.
“It’s just remarkable. They’re hanging on every word,” Diaz said. “You’re talking about a group that’s been not just in the NFL but dominant in the NFL, so it’s just phenomenal to see.”
Miami brought another loaded lineup of alumni to talk to prospects on hand — some of which were there to compete in drills and earn a scholarship offer and others, who are more established, didn’t feel the need to participate but took in the event and atmosphere.
Hurricanes alumni that attended included Irvin, Campbell, Rousseau, Antrel Rolle, Edgerrin James, Jaelan Phillips, Jon Beason, Reggie Wayne, Joaquin Gonzalez, Kenny Phillips, David Njoku, Lamar Miller, Lamar Thomas, Najeh Davenport, Sheldrick Redwine, Brett Romberg, Deon Bush, Jose Borregales, Duane Starks, Sean Spence and Osborn.
The group introduced themselves and listed their college and NFL accolades after current UM players and coaches had their introductions to campers ahead of drills.
“You really can’t get the full experience of what the University of Miami means without having those people in the building,” Diaz said as he spoke to reporters while players were breaking up into drills. “This has been already an amazing night.”
Paradise Camp didn’t net UM any new commitments, as of late Saturday night. With only four commitments in late June, Diaz said he’s not too concerned and believes the relationships with prospects are being built after a 15-month recruiting dead period due to the pandemic was lifted to start the month.
“There’s a lot of schools that press the kids to try to commit,” added Diaz, also speaking to a new approach the program takes, not accepting soft commitments when a player is still heavily considering other schools. “They try to get some fake momentum because of that, and that’s fine. They can win the recruiting bakeoff in the month of June, because that’s not Signing Day. We want to be authentic in our relationships, and if a kid picks Miami, we want it to be for the right reasons. I feel good about where we’re at.”
Several top prospects attended Paradise Camp on Saturday, although not all participated in drills. Among the Hurricanes’ top 2022 targets: Five-star Miami Monsignor Pace defensive end Shemar Stewart and four-star prospects in Miami Central linebacker Wesley Bissainthe and American Heritage cornerback Earl Little Jr., whose father by the same name played for UM, and defensive end Marvin Jones Jr.
Bissainthe visited Miami after stirring up some drama with Hurricanes fans while on a visit to Florida State. In an Instagram live video where he was doing a photoshoot in an FSU uniform, he was seen making an upside-down U with his hands. It was screenshot, and the image circulated around social media.
After the gesture garnered attention, Bissainthe tweeted: “I got nothing against the [U]. My decision will be made early signing day [in December].”
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Bissainthe told Rivals’ CaneSport.com. “They (FSU coaches) suggested it, I didn’t mean anything by it. I regret it, you don’t want to do anything like that. You live and learn by your mistakes.”
Said Stewart, who visited UM for the fourth time this month: “The visits have just been good vibes. I came over here, chilling with my friends, chilling with the people I know. Paradise Camp was good.”
Other South Florida standouts like Miami Edison cornerback Elijah Mc-Cantos and St. Thomas Aquinas offensive lineman Tellek Lockette were among those that looked to land a UM offer. Coming in from out of state, offensive lineman Tapuvae Amaama (Utah) ended up receiving an offer, he announced Saturday night.
A pair of five-star prospects in the 2023 class in American Heritage wide receiver Brandon Inniss and defensive lineman Jayden Wayne, hailing all the way from the state of Washington, headlined a slew that came in from younger classes, along with standout four-star Heritage running back Mark Fletcher. With the recruiting cycle pushed back because of the lengthy dead period, it was a key evaluation day for Miami coaches to see underclassmen’s abilities. ...
Earlier Saturday, Hurricanes players Michael Harley, Amari Carter, James Williams, Kamren Kinchens and Chase Smith were out near the site of the Surfside building collapse, delivering pizza and water to first responders.
“It’s a tragedy. I can’t even begin to put words to describe what has taken place,” Carter told CBS4. “But that’s why we have a community. We all come together, and so many people from so many different places, different parts of Florida, just coming together. ... We’re all in this together, just to help each other out any way we can.”