When my department heads first suggested that we in the LastWordOnSports college football department pick four of the greatest players in our respective school’s history for a Mount Rushmore feature, they made note that writers who cover programs such as Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Alabama, etc. would have a difficult time with this assignment.
Not that picking the four greatest players in Hurricanes history is any easier.
The Greatest Players in Hurricanes History
I could pick four players off the historic 2001 National Championship team alone and they would suffice as the greatest players in Hurricane history. No other program has galvanized the sport of college football over the past four decades the way Miami has. From Jerome Brown to Willis McGahee to Duke Johnson, even in the not-so Golden years Miami has still been able to produce top notch talent that has continued to build on the Hurricanes’ legacy.
In choosing the four greatest players in Hurricanes history, I attempted to choose players across the different era’s of Miami’s dominance in college football: from their rise in the early 1980s to the pinnacles the program reached at the turn of the Millennium. These four players embody everything about Miami Hurricanes’ football.
With respect to the difficulty of picking only four of the greatest players in Hurricanes’ history, there are many players that were left off the list. None tougher than the legendary Sean Taylor.
Words cannot describe what Sean Taylor meant and still means to the Hurricane program and fanbase. He is definitely one of the greatest players in Hurricanes’ history, and had his life not been tragically cut short he would have been an all time NFL great as well. It is hard to find a player in all of college football that embodied the persona of Taylor.
Sean Taylor’s legacy is too big to have him share the mountainside; he deserves a monument all to himself.
Miami Hurricanes Mount Rushmore
Now, if you haven’t stopped reading to shred me in the comments section, here is who we chose as the four greatest players in Hurricanes’ history for inclusion on our Miami Mount Rushmore.
Ken Dorsey, Quarterback (1999-2002)
Overlooked by those outside of the Miami fanbase, Dorsey was the field general of the greatest college football team of all-time, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. Dorsey left Miami as the winningest quarterback in program history with a record of 38-2. He still holds the all-time career passing record with 9,565 yards as well as passing touchdowns with 86.
Dorsey entered the coaching field after a seven-year career in the NFL and CFL. In 2011, he was hired as a pro scout by the Carolina Panthers. Two years later, he was promoted to quarterbacks coach and has been instrumental in the development of 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton.
Ottis Anderson, Running Back (1975-1978)
Compared to the past decade, the early 1970s were truly the darkest times in the history of the Miami program. The team struggled to break .500, attendance was dwindling, and the administration was considering dropping the program down to Division-1AA (now known as FCS).
Anderson was one of the few bright spots during such a dark time and as such, deserves recognition as one of the greatest players in Hurricanes’ history.
In his senior year in 1978 – one of only two winning seasons for the Hurricanes that decade, Anderson became the first Hurricanes player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season with 1,266. He sits second all-time in career rushing yards with 3,331, the record not broken until 2014 by Duke Johnson.
Anderson would go on to have a stellar career in the NFL. After beginning his career with the then St. Louis Cardinals – where he is still the all-time leading rusher with 7,999 yards – Anderson was traded to the New York Giants where he had a career revival in 1989, rushing for 1,023 yards and 14 touchdowns capped off by being named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He would earn Super Bowl MVP honors in Super Bowl XXV in 1990. And at the time of his retirement following the 1992 season, Anderson was ranked eighth all-time for career rushing yards and seventh for career NFL touchdowns. He currently tours the country as a motivational speaker.
Ted Hendricks, Defensive End (1966-1968)
Defense has long been heralded as a key factor in the Hurricanes’ decades of dominance in the ’80s and ’90s, but it can be said that legacy was started in the late 1960s by Ted Hendricks.
Hendricks was a three time All-American during his career at Miami. He still holds the all-time record for fumble recoveries with 12 and his 327 career tackles are the most ever by a Hurricanes defensive lineman. To be fair, though, he played the position similar to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. In 1968 he would win the UPI National Lineman of the Year award and finished fifth in that year’s Heisman balloting.
Hendricks would go on to become one of the first Miami players to have incredible success at the NFL level. He would play 15 years, winning four Super Bowls, earning eight Pro Bowl selections while being named All-Pro nine times. He would be named to not only the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, but the 1980s All-Decade Team as well. He would be inducted into the Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. His number 89 jersey was retired with his induction into the Miami Ring of Honor in 1997. It is hard to question Hendricks’ place as one of the greatest players in Hurricanes’ history.
Bennie Blades, Defensive Back (1985-1987)
Before Sean Taylor and Ed Reed, Bennie Blades was the first to launch the legacy of the free safety position at the University of Miami.
A two-time all-American in 1986 & 87, Blades would win the second ever Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 1987 while guiding the Hurricanes to an undefeated 12-0 season and the program’s second National Championship. Blades left Miami as the all-time leader in interceptions (19), consecutive games with an interception (5) and most interceptions with in a season (10 in 1986). Each of those records have since been tied or broken by Reed and Taylor, highlighting Blades inclusion on the Miami Mount Rushmore as one of the greatest players in Hurricanes’ history, laying the ground work for what has become one of the many positions at which Miami has produced legendary players.
Blades would play ten years in the NFL after being drafted third overall in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He would serve as defensive captain for the Lions and is second all-time for the franchise with 815 career tackles. Blades was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
The Spirit of Mount Rushmore
When the sculptor Gutzom Borglum was asked about the Presidents he chose to carve into Mount Rushmore, he stated he chose them due to their role in “preserving the Republic and expanding it’s territory.”
In this sense, Hendricks and Anderson are analogous for Washington and Jefferson; men who whether they knew it or not, were setting the stage for something that would come to symbolize dominance in the respective arenas of sports and geopolitics for years to come. Blades’ time at Miami is similar to Lincoln’s time as President. It came at a time of uncertainty, where the State of the U and the Union would either thrive or crumble, while Dorsey is a perfect representative of Roosevelt. The ultimate culmination after years of turmoil where Miami and the United States affirmed its dominance within their respective worlds.
It wasn’t easy picking only four of the greatest players in Hurricanes’ history to sit atop our Miami Mount Rushmore. You could name a player from any point in Miami’s history for every National Monument in the country. However, in the spirit of Mount Rushmore, these four players have made their mark not only in Coral Gables but college football as a whole.