Miami magic To get a true taste of Michael Irvin’s love of “The U,” you’d better make some free time A funny thing happened on the way to an interview with Michael Irvin the other day. We chatted for a few minutes before I posed my first question for a feature I’m working on for the upcoming print issue of PFW. It was about why he coined the phrase “The U” to be used when speaking of his alma mater, the University of Miami. And in case you haven’t seen Irvin’s regular resounding proclamations on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, that’s usually pronounced “Daaaahhhh U.” How the term started was all I wanted to know before getting on to other things about the Hurricanes’ impact on the NFL. What seemed like about 15 minutes later, I had my answer. Perhaps the most complete answer I’ve ever received from anyone in this business, or in my life for that matter. Because of my fascination with this response, I found it necessary to share with you. One loquacious man’s complete devotion to his school and its football program, unedited. A few of my follow-up questions come afterward, in case you failed to catch his point, which, as long as you have a pulse, I find unlikely. Q: So I’ve got to ask you, why do you call it “The U?” Irvin: Well, first, it’s the most catching thing to put out there for it. You hear people talk about how it’s Miami of Ohio and all of these little nicknames, but when you talk about the greatest university of all — and I’m talking about everything — and I’m sitting on the set with Tom Jackson and Boomer (Chris Berman), who for years would say (in a low voice) “Where’s he from? Louisville.” You know, that old catchy thing (promoting a player from Jackson’s alma mater)? Same with Stuart Scott talking about North Carolina. But they can’t drive it home because (NFL players from Louisville and Carolina) are few and far between. How many times a week do you think I get to yell, “Daaaahhhh U?” You know what I’m saying? And it says everything in that one statement. Because I don’t need to tell you about Hurricane football. I don’t need to make that statement. You already know about it. The football speaks for itself, so I don’t need to say that anymore. I need to tell you that this is the university of all universities. No more, “Where is he from? (again, in low voice to impersonate Jackson) The Hurricanes. Or Miami.” No. It’s “Where is he from? Daaaahhhh U.” That’s it. We don’t need to put anything else with it. You know and I know that we don’t need to mention anything about the “U” on the side of the helmet. You know, I know, anybody knows when they say “The U,” you know it’s from, the way I see it, the top university in the world today. Academically it’s a great university. Athletically it’s a superb university. Socially, it’s a great university. I mean, South Beach! You can go and be well rounded. What other university you know offers that tie to everything? Q: What about my alma mater, I ask, trying to dig at him a little about his archrival. Florida State wasn’t bad. Irvin: Yeah, but you’re in Tallahassee. You see what I’m saying? It’s Tallahassee. If you’re the Gators, then you’re in Gainesville. Sure, it’s a nice college town, but we have Miami, you know what I mean? The diversity that’s there in Miami, you’re going to learn so much more from so many different types of people. When you encompass it all, “The U” says it all. If I talk about any one aspect, I’m cheating the university. So I’m calling it “The U.” Of all universities, this is “The U,” period. And it’s gotten to the point where I can say it anytime, anywhere, and everybody knows exactly what I’m talking about (laughs). I shot a picture for the University of Miami poster last week, and I’ll be there next week to do the storyboard. I’m doing some marketing with them. I’m going to shoot a commercial for them. It’s all about “The U” (laughs). You want your son or your daughter to be well rounded, send them to “The U.” That’s it. That’s it. We don’t need to say anymore. And the family atmosphere is as great as any. A couple weeks ago I was in Fort Lauderdale doing another event. I sat with Santana Moss, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Reggie Wayne; we were all right there. Santana is telling me, “You can’t believe what it meant to me when you were on the sideline at the Florida State game and you told us, ‘This is where it is.’ ” That rushed chills through my body to hear him talk about how much that meant to him and how (the bond between Miami players) is one thing he counts on in his career. What it does, with all the young guys thinking about where they want to go (to college), they know that we all stay together. I want to join a great football team, but more important than that, I want to join a family. And I want to know that these are my big brothers. I want to know I have big brothers in the league, I have big brothers broadcasting in the league, I have big brothers coming back to talk to me about my responsibility when I leave this university, my responsibility to be a big brother. Q: (12-year veteran LB) Darrin Smith (who played with Irvin in Dallas) told me that when you guys had a big game coming up in college, you’d often get a homemade videotape from guys in the NFL reminding you of how important that week was. Irvin: Yeah, we do it all the time still. I sent a couple videos last year from the (ESPN) set. I ask them if they understand what they’re about to embark upon. This is what it is. It’s something that we have held high as long as I can remember when you’re getting ready to play the Florida States and the Floridas because this is about recruiting. This is about going out and showing that one undecided kid who lives in Boca Raton who’s thinking, “Do I go to Tallahassee or do I go to Miami?” This about showing him — and I’m just throwing out Tallahassee because of you (laughs) — that hey, you can go to Tallahassee and be part of a football team or you can come to Miami and be part of a football family. And that’s the difference in my mind. That is the difference between Miami and anywhere. Q: You guys almost seem to thrive on knowing that a lot of people hate Miami or at least enjoy rooting against you, like you’re the Yankees of college football. Irvin: Well, you know that no one likes anyone that does a lot of winning. And honestly, no one likes anyone that sticks together as much as everybody at “The U” does. No one likes that. They look at it like, “Why do you have it and I don’t?” So it is a great thing. It’s a great thing to talk about and a great thing for me. I’m sitting here in the position I’m sitting in, and I’m watching all of these young guys come into the league from “The U.” I’m like, hey, my job is to make sure I have a relationship with the young guys in the league right now. I got that part done. I’m OK there. But seriously, we thrive off being a family. The thing is this: You know we’re supposed to be tough, egotistical and all the egos are supposed to rain down and everything, but when we all get together, it’s a beautiful thing. Because it’s brother to brother. It’s brother to brother to brother to brother. And even if I haven’t seen a guy for two years, when I see him, it’s like I saw him yesterday. And it’s the greatest thing in the world. It’s a bond and a tie that I don’t know anyone has anywhere, period. … It’s a powerful thing. And it’s a bonding thing. It’s like, you know we’re playing football, but we’re still living life. And through life, you’re going to need a brother. So it’s good to know that when I line up and play beside you, I can go line up and live beside you or lean on you when I need you. That’s what it’s all about. We should be able to depend on each other to help us through everything, so it’s very important. Q: A lot of people see Miami and think arrogance. But I’ve been told by other former Hurricanes that it’s more confidence than anything. Irvin: Arrogance is one of those words I don’t see. Confidence is stating the things that you know you can do. What shall we call arrogance? I don’t even know a definition for it. It’s not even in my vocabulary. But the word confidence, I can deal with that word. That’s a word I know. And I think that’s what Miami is. Everybody at “The U,” they don’t come out and say stuff just to say it, to raise your eyebrow or ruffle your feathers. They say it because they believe it. And then usually they go out and prove it. That’s confidence. What’s wrong with that? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s something we need more of in this world — confidence. Q: Matt Hasselbeck told me that he despised Miami mostly because he was never recruited to go there. More of a jealousy factor than anything. Do you think that’s common? Irvin: A lot of it. I just finished filming “The Longest Yard” with Brian Bosworth. Bosworth had a great career at Oklahoma. A great career. And it’s Oklahoma! But even Boz says to me, “Man, I should’ve been at Miami with you guys. I fit in better with you guys. I should’ve been there with you guys.” That said so much to me. You know what I’m saying? This is Bosworth. The Boz. I told him, “You’re talking about coming to Miami. In Oklahoma, you were the whole show. In Miami, you’re going to be part of a show.” (Laughs) He was fine with that. He won a national championship, so he was happy. But still, it’s what we are. I took so much pride in coming up with “Daaaahhhh U,” and saying “Daaaahhhh U” on TV every chance I get because it is, for me, the university of all universities.