FIRST, GREAT NEWS FOR FORMER QUARTERBACK AND NEW SAFETY A.J. HIGHSMITH. JUST HEARD FROM UM SPORTS INFORMATION. UM COMMUNICATIONS CHECKED WITH COMPLIANCE STAFF AND WAS INFORMED THAT THE MEDICAL HARDSHIP WAIVER HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR A.J. NOW A.J. IS OFFICIALLY A THIRD-YEAR SOPHOMORE AND HAS THREE YEARS TO DEVELOP HIS CRAFT AS A DEFENSIVE BACK.
I had a long conversation with former Hurricanes fullback Alonzo Highsmith yesterday for the article I did on his son, A.J., for today's paper. MiamiHerald.com http://hrld.us/oLvEQi via @miamiherald
As always, he was candid and outspoken. Alonzo is extremely encouraged by new UM coach Al Golden and is 100-percent convinced he will turn the program around. That doesn't mean the Canes will always win, he warned, but this team will have a completely different attitude and look this year and will no longer lie down for anyone, he said. Not with these coaches.
Alonzo played fullback from 1983 (under Howard Schnellenberger) to 1986 ('84, '85 and '86 under Jimmy Johnson) and is one of the former Hurricane stars who turned the University of Miami football program into a great one.
The following four paragraphs I reported and wrote for a story I did on A.J. a couple years ago:
Alonzo Sr. met Denise at UM. He graduated from Miami Columbus High. She graduated from Miami Killian. The way his folks describe it, A.J. was born in 1991 wearing UM gear. In one photo at six months, he's wearing a UM cap, orange UM shorts and a T-shirt that reads, "I'm tough Enough To Be a Hurricane."
A.J. Highsmith grew up in Missouri City, just outside of Houston. His bedroom in Texas is marked by a replica street sign, " Miami Hurricane Alley." A replica jersey of late former UM safety Sean Taylor hangs in his bedroom. He got to know and work out with Taylor, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, Ed Reed and other Canes when he moved to Miami with his mother and sister, Jordan, from August 2002 until December 2003. Denise's father was gravely ill, and the three of them came to help take care of him while Alonzo Sr. stayed home to work.
A.J. Highsmith became close friends with the son of former UM receivers coach Curtis Johnson, and UM's receivers would come to their Pop Warner games at the Kendall Boys and Girls Club.
The last time A.J. played safety was in eighth grade, and according to DB Coach Paul Williams on Tuesday, A.J. had made the most improvement in the first few days of camp.
Here are some things Alonzo told me during our conversation:
* Alonzo on Al Golden:
"He’s the right man for this job. He’s brought back accountability and toughness and that’s what the Miami program was built on -- no entitlement. When I went to that bowl game and I watched those kids in Miami and I hung around the kids for a couple days and watched how everything worked, I said these kids have got no chance. Just their attitudes, the way they presented themselves. I felt they weren’t on the right course.
"I think they walked around with that entitlement -- 'We’re the University of Miami,' without the work part. Golden is stripping away that U swagger. But they’ll ge it back through hard work.''
"I’ve been around this game long enough and I’ve watched all the great coaches. I don’t know how many games Miami is going to win this year but you’re going to see a different team this year. You’ll see the effort and you’ll see the competitiveness back out there. You won’t see them get beat by South Florida.
"What happened to them against Notre Dame isn’t going to happen anymore.
"I don’t care about losing. That’s part of the game. But when you lose your bowl game because the other team is tougher than you and you aren't competitive, and you give up, then I become sick to my stomach.''
--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN