Mark Richt Taking UM Football Into The Communities

Larry BlockSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

Through the years, Mark Richt has earned a reputation for being someone who gets results with hard work and dedication.

No matter what football program he has been a part of during his coaching career, he always makes sure that he includes everyone – from adults to youngsters – in his building process.

Last Thursday, Richt once again used his time to the advantage of the program, as he visited the Hallandale Police Athletic (PAL) Chargers youth program to inspire and challenge the youngsters to do better and to get the most out of what they are trying to do with their young lives.

For the Boca Raton-raised and former standout quarterback Richt, the journey has now taken the 56-year-old full circle.

From Boca Raton High to the “U” to a brief stint in the NFL – and then his coaching stops at FSU, East Carolina, and Georgia where he established himself as one of the best in the profession, he has taken in all the experiences.

What Richt has done since arriving is immerse himself into the landscape of South Florida. He has been everywhere and done anything possible to break those barriers that have long existed between the University of Miami and the community.

From numerous 7-on-7 events and camps to visiting local high schools and coaches, Richt and this administration have bent over backward to ensure that the welcome mat is always open – whether you are a fan or former player, like defensive secondary great Tolbert Bain, the door is always open.

One of the ideas that Richt came up with, along with several other players – such as Bain – is to visit the root of the football prospect in this region of the country.

The youth football leagues in South Florida are second to none, and by tapping into the 9-14-year-olds, you put that orange and green into their lives at the right time, when they are forming opinions and decision-making abilities.

“How many of you want to play college football at the University of Miami?” Richt asked a large group of players in the Hallandale PAL Chargers program. “How many want to play high school or even college football? The reason I am asking is no matter if you want to play football, get a job or go to college and get an education, the rules are all the same. You have to work hard and make a commitment.”

Just those words, while they may not mean much to 10-year-olds right now, it did hit home to the youth coaches and parents who were also on hand. With the help of Bain, a former standout football player at the University of Miami and someone who has roots at Northwestern and Liberty City, Richt’s visits have covered all of South Florida and have planted those important seeds that are vital to getting this program changed around.

With many visits planned (two each Thursday), Richt has hit the ground running, with Bain leading the way, visiting such iconic parks as the Overtown Tornadoes, Liberty City Warriors, Gwen Cherry Bulls, Bunch Park Cowboys, Miami Gardens Ravens, Miami Gardens Chiefs, Pembroke Pines Optimist (PPO) Bengals and the Hallandale Chargers.

“For someone who bleeds orange and green, and have all my adult life, to see what Coach Richt has done with the program over the past nine months is so exciting,” Bain pointed out. “He is doing everything – on and off of the playing field – that is proven. Everyone associated with this program gets it. That’s why this youth football Thursday event is a winner.”

While the youngsters were not around to remember Richt from his playing days, they are impressed when his former Georgia players Geno Atkins, A.J. Green, Mohamed Massaquoi, Knowshon Moreno, Matthew Stafford, Blair Walsh, Thomas Davis, Alec Ogletree, Ben Watson, Dolphins’ Rashad Jones and great running back Todd Gurley are among the best in the NFL.

Richt played at the University of Miami from 1978–1982. Under national champion coach Howard Schnellenberger, he was backup to Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. In later years, other Miami quarterbacks he played alongside included Vinny Testaverde and Bernie Kosar. Richt amassed nearly 1,500 passing yards. The 1981 Miami Hurricanes team finished 9–2, ranked 8th in the country, while the 1980 team finished 9–3, ranked 18th in the country.

In hosting Richt, Hallandale Beach PAL representative Jonathan Carrillo, who has done an amazing job with the program and fundraising over the years, had the chance to see his five teams jump into the spotlight with coaches who grew up and played in the community.

“The opportunity to have an iconic personality at our field, talking with our players and parents was something that you cannot express,” Carrillo explained. “This is really a great thing for this program – for so many reasons.”

As the UM football program experienced many years of searching for that loyal fan base and a solid identity, Richt’s arrival has certainly changed the views of what’s going on in Coral Gables; and what it all boils down to is that this time around, all of South Florida is embracing the Hurricanes.

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