I began watching the Miami Hurricanes football team as a young kid. There are a bunch of players who I have considered as my favorite player at any given time, but there is only one who is my favorite Cane to ever step foot in Coral Gables.
I began watching college football and University of Miami sports right around the year 2000. I was obsessed pretty quickly, and Miami's legendary 2001 national title season basically roped me in for life. But ever since, there is still one player that's stood above the rest.
Before I get into my favorite Cane, I'll mention the others who fall just behind him. And as much as I love guys like Ray Lewis and Michael Irvin, I won't include them here because I wasn't able to watch them play in a Miami uniform.
At a time when the Hurricanes were extremely inconsistent, Duke Johnson was the best player on the team almost immediately. The school's all-time leading rusher was easy to love the second he put on the orange and green.
The Duke is my favorite Miami running back, but I think that is mostly because he was the most recent to dominate as a Hurricane. I loved Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, and Clinton Portis all the same, but they played great on historic teams while Johnson was the leader of some bad teams and helped them to at least compete week after week.
Early in my Miami fandom, Andre Johnson was a dominant player who I idolized. He was completely unstoppable in the 2001 BCS National Championship game against Nebraska, then had a legendary professional career. I was obsessed with him for a long time, especially during his time in the NFL.
I was too young to appreciate Ed Reed and what he did as a free safety for Miami, but he was not only the best on the field in college, but in the NFL as well. His clips of screaming at his teammates still fires me up.
If Ken Dorsey would have had a really good pro career, he possibly could be my favorite of all time. I had an orange No. 11 jersey that I wore so often, it eventually fell apart at the seams. He was the leader of two national title teams and a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist.
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Dorsey was the player I couldn't get enough of when I first started watching Miami. But when it comes down to it, there is just one player who I loved watching week after week the most.
The late, great Sean Taylor was just so good, I can't imagine finding another Miami Hurricane to rival him for a long time.
Sean Taylor's Miami Hurricanes Career
It isn't often that a player could literally play on all sides of the ball and dominate. Some of my favorite memories of watching the Hurricanes growing up involve Taylor, who without a doubt is the best safety college football has ever seen.
There are times I wish Taylor could've played more on offense and special teams because he showed flashes of brilliance when he was used. In 2002, he caught a 47-yard touchdown pass against Syracuse and looked like a natural tight end or wide receiver. In high school, Taylor was a dominant running back at Gulliver Prep, where he set a Florida high school record with 44 touchdowns in 2000.
His 2003 season when he was a consensus First-Team All-American is, to me, one of the best seasons by a defensive back in NCAA history. Taylor finished the year with 77 tackles, 10 interceptions, three defensive touchdowns and numerous game-changing plays.
My older brother and I called Taylor "Chris Rix's favorite receiver" for a long time because he intercepted the former Florida State Seminoles QB three times in one season -- twice in the regular season game and then again in the 2004 Orange Bowl.
That 49-yard interception return for a touchdown by Taylor against FSU is still my favorite play ever. That game cemented him as one of my favorites, and then he continued to grow into a superhero in my mind.
After being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, I saw Taylor blossom into a complete freak with the Washington Redskins.
Everything about Taylor was superhero-like. That even included the day his life ended.
How Did Sean Taylor Die?
On his final day, Taylor died protecting his family from unwanted intruders. I remember watching the news about Taylor being shot like it was yesterday, crying for a man I had never met, but played a huge role in my life growing up.
He was the first Hurricane taken in the famous 2004 NFL Draft when six Miami players were taken in the first round, all of whom I loved watching like tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams.
In four NFL seasons, Taylor made the Pro Bowl twice and would have earned many more, as well as some All-Pro selections, had his life not been ended so abruptly. When I was living close to Tampa in the early 2000s, I was rooting for the Buccaneers, and Taylor was the bane of my existence when Tampa Bay faced Washington in the 2005 playoffs.
My favorite Miami Hurricane ever scooped up a fumble late in the first quarter and returned it for a touchdown, and all I could think is how I missed him being on my favorite team because he did nothing but make big plays and was so much fun to watch.
There might never be another player to impact my life like Sean Taylor did. Then again, maybe there doesn't need to be. After all, superheroes don't come around all that often.
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