25 Years, 25 Favorites

This is my 25th season as the Miami Hurricanes Athletics’ team photographer, and I was a student at UM prior to that, a time period of which I have a few selections for this list.

#25 Howard Schellenberger at Lockhart Stadium

Leading off the list is the grandfather of modern-day Hurricanes Football, the one and only Coach Howard Schnellenberger. Coach is shown here at UM’s annual Spring Game in 2016 at the now-demolished Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale.

Schnellenberger resuscitated the Hurricanes program in the early 80’s, culminating in a national championship in 1983. After stops in Louisville, Oklahoma, and Florida Atlantic, he retired in 2011.

Back in 1999, Schnellenberger was hired by Florida Atlantic to promote support for a football program. I was fortunate enough to have shot several of those appearances when led to becoming FAU’s Team Photographer in 2004, concurrent with my gig at UM.

#24 Tyriq McCord sacks Jeff Driskel vs Florida 2013

Tyriq McCord sacks Jeff Driskel with just over 4 minutes remaining to set up a touchdown run by Duke Johnson to propel the ‘Canes to a 21-16 upset win over #12 ranked “The Gator” in 2013. 

Growing up in Michigan, the only real in-state rivalry was Michigan vs Michigan State, which was a one sided affair for most of my youth. After coming to UM as a transfer student from Hillsborough Community College I was introduced to two great college rivalries: UM v FSU, and the occasional UM vs UF matchup.

There is something glorious about a strip sack photo, with the quarterback’s delivery interrupted mid throw, and the ball hanging in perpetuity in the air. Add the fact our program had been on the downswing for nearly a decade, and this was a significant moment in securing a win in front of a record crowd of 76,869 at Sun Life Stadium.

#23 Frank Gore clinching TD vs Florida 2003

Frank Gore scores the go-ahead touchdown from 12 yards out during the ‘Canes 38-33 comeback win over UF in one of the greatest games in ‘Canes history.

On the following drive with 1:37 remaining, UF drove down to the ‘Canes 20 until Al Marshall sealed the win with an interception of a Chris Leak pass.

Adding to the story is the play of quarterback Brock Berlin, a transfer from none other than UF, who at the 6:10 mark of the 3rd quarter was down 33-10. Berlin led the ‘Canes to four consecutive touchdown drives, culminating in the aforementioned Gore TD run to complete the comeback. ABC’s Brad Nessler said “Once a Gator, always a Hurricane” of Berlin on the final kneel down as he launched the ball into the Orange Bowl stands and the game into the annals of Hurricanes football lore.

#22 Devin Hester blocked field goal return vs Florida 2004

Devin Hester returns a blocked field goal attempt 78 yards for a touchdown during the ‘Canes 27-10 win over UF in the 2004 Peach Bowl.

This was the ‘Canes second appearance in the Peach Bowl, the first being in 1981 against Virginia Tech in a game many consider a turning point in the Miami football program. UM won that game 20-10.

Hester’s return for a touchdown was his fifth of the season and sixth of his ‘Canes career, foreshadowing his stellar career as a return specialist in the NFL.

Hester returned this one right at me, with exasperated Gators players far behind him giving chase, making it one of my all-time favorite images.

#21 Dyral McMillan v Pat Tillman

Legendary defensive back Pat Tillman is stiff-armed by ‘Canes running back Dyral McMillan during the ‘Canes 23-12 defeat to Arizona State in 1997.

McMillan led the ‘Canes in rushing that day with 53 yards on 11 attempts, and Tillman had 7 tackles to lead the Sun Devils.

Tillman went on to play for the Arizona Cardinals for four seasons, then famously turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to enlist in the Army after 9/11.

Tillman was killed in action while serving with the Army Rangers in eastern Afghanistan in 2004.

#20 Jimmy Murphy Tackle in Downpour

In 2018, one of those signature South Florida downpours which seems to occur every season started shortly after kickoff and proved too much for Hard Rock Stadium’s modern drainage system to handle, leaving the field partially under water for most of the first half. 

Jimmy Murphy, on the ‘Canes special teams punt coverage, met Duke returner Deon Jackson at one of the flooded sections of the field, as shown here.

Most of us photographers, despite the major inconvenience and threat to the functionality of our gear, love bad weather games for the opportunity to make unique images.

#19 Ed Reed w/ Javelin

Ed Reed.

College football National Champion. NFL Super Bowl Champion. College Football Hall of Fame. Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

So what’s one of my favorite Ed Reed images? 

Ed with a javelin.

When then-head coach Butch Davis made his recruiting visit to see Ed in high school, it wasn’t a football game Ed was participating in, it was a basketball game. Coach Davis loved multi-sport athletes.

Besides basketball, Ed was a standout track athlete. He was a member of the Louisiana state champion 4×100 meter relay team, was a long jumper, and set his high school record with a 56.94 meter javelin throw. With a throw of 66.32 meters, Ed was also the 1999 Big East Champion.

While this image isn’t from the football field, it’s an image related to a sport that helped lead Ed to greatness on the gridiron at “The U.”

#18 Sherko @ The White House

Since the 1980s, one of the perks of winning a national championship in a major sport has been a trip to visit the sitting president in the White House.

Privileged to have been invited along with the ‘Canes baseball and football teams in April, 2002, I was fortunate enough to notice offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli sitting on a windowsill with the drapes drawn around him.

Sherko was a member of arguably one of the greatest ‘Canes offensive lines ever, alongside Bryant McKinnie, Brett Romberg, Martin Bibla, and Joaquin Gonzalez. This starting unit surrendered only three sacks in all of the 2001 national championship season.

Sherko later returned the favor by taking a pic of me sitting in a chair in the Green Room. I usually don’t like pics of myself but this one was special, as my 4th great grand uncle once occupied the White House.

#17 Flying James Jackson

During the 1998 Micron PC Bowl, running back James Jackson leaps over a defender.

Jackson carried the ball 11 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Although this 2nd quarter run only garnered four yards, noted ‘Cane hater Mark May proclaimed it was a “pretty move.” So pretty, in fact, this image was a part of the cover of a future media guide and poster.

The ‘Canes went on to defeat NC State 46-23.

#16 Flying Andre King & Santana Moss

During the 2000 Gator Bowl, wide receivers Andre King and Santana Moss celebrate King’s touchdown.

On the first day of the 21st century, former minor league baseball player Andre King scored on a 15 yard pass from future minor league baseball player Kenny Kelly in the 2nd quarter of the ‘Canes 28-13 victory over Georgia Tech.

King played professional baseball for five seasons with three organizations before coming to The U, while Kelly played professional baseball for 11 seasons for six different organizations.

#15 Mark Richt Fisheye Photos

During Coach Richt’s brief tenure, the stretching portion of pregame warm-ups would always end with a team huddle.

It became a challenge to create different images of this moment, so I employed some old-fashioned one-trick pony lenses to help. 

With its enormous field of view, I used a fisheye lens to get close to Coach Richt, exaggerating the perspective and bringing in more of the scene.

The first image was shot with a Rokinon full-frame fisheye lens. The other was shot with a Lensbaby circular fisheye lens.

#14 Najeh Davenport with whiteboard @ Pitt

Near the end of the ‘Canes 43-21 win at Pittsburgh in 2001, running back Najeh Davenport had some words for the obnoxious Pitt fans who had been yelling at the ‘Canes all day.

Instead of verbalizing those words, Davenport grabbed a whiteboard and scribbled his feelings at those Pitt fans who were yelling at UM for most of the game, then begging for autographs after it.

#13 Gino Torretta on shoulders @ SDSU

Late in the 1992 season, Miami quarterback Gino Torretta and San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk were the leading Heisman Trophy contenders, and were to face each other at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium in the last game of the regular season.

In one of the season’s ugliest games, punctuated with two bench-clearing brawls, a scary injury, a player ejection and a death threat against Miami coach Dennis Erickson, Faulk ended up missing the game with an injury and Torretta went 19 of 35 for 310 yards and was carried off the field by teammates Mark Caesar and Kip Vickers.

“They said they wanted to carry me off,” Torretta remembered. “Nah, you don’t have to do that.” Mark Caesar replied, “We’re going to carry you off no matter what.”

#12 Our 12th Man In 12th Man Land

In football, the term “12th Man” is generally considered to reference the fans, who as a group can have a tremendous impact on how their team performs. 

The first known use of the term “twelfth man” was in a campus magazine published by the University of Minnesota in September, 1900, that referred to “the mysterious influence of the twelfth man on the team, the rooter.”

The term can also refer to individuals who have an impact.

Kyle Field, home of the Texas A&M Aggies, considers themselves the “Home of the 12th Man.” In 1922, playing in the Dixie Classic in Dallas, a student named E. King Gill came down from the press box and donned a uniform when coach Dana X. Bible realized his injury-depleted bench was dwindling. Over the years the legend has grown to the point the school has trademarked the term “12th Man.”

In 2008, the ‘Canes handed Texas A&M its worst non-conference defeat at Kyle Field in 20 years, beating them 41-23. I’d like to think the victory was due, in part, to this unidentified brave soul who was seated high above the press box in a Corps of Cadets.

#11 Miami Magic Miracle

Trailing Georgia Tech 24-22 late in a rain-soaked 2017 game, the ‘Canes faced a 4th and 10 from the Yellow Jackets 43 yard line. On an under thrown pass from Malik Rosier, Darrell Langham made a juggling off the helmet catch to convert the 4th down, leading to Michael Badgley’s game winning field goal to keep UM unbeaten with a 25-24 win. While I chose one image for some platforms, the entire sequence is worthy of inclusion. See the GIF of the sequence on my Caneshooter Instagram page.

#10 Sebastian Smoke

Before a game in 2002 colloquially known as “Wide Left I,” Sebastian the Ibis leads the ‘Canes onto the field to face rival Florida State before a record crowd of 81,927. Seminoles kicker Xavier Beitia missed a 43-yard field goal attempt to the left as time expired and the ‘Canes prevailed 28-27.

In the 1950s, UM transportation director Bob Nalette came up with the idea of using fire extinguishers and welded pipe to produce the now-famous smoke that Hurricanes run through as they enter the field.

Before other schools copied our recruitment of speedy athletes and our fourth quarter four-finger signal, they copied our entrance through the smoke.

#9 Sean Taylor Hit @ Pitt

In Miami’s final Big East appearance, Sean Taylor had two interceptions and three tackles, including this hit on Pitt tight end Kris Wilson, during their 28-14 victory over the Panthers.

Taylor helped the ‘Canes defense limit Heisman Trophy candidate and future NFL Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald to 3 catches for 26 yards – 18 of which came on a late meaningless touchdown.

“We’re not going to let any one player come in and dominate us,” Taylor said.

#8 Ice Cold Rock

Dwayne Johnson, known by millions as “The Rock,” is a wrestling legend and an A-list actor in Hollywood.

Before Johnson was known as the wrestler “The Rock,” he was a Hurricanes defensive end who everyone called “Dewey” and loved to sing country music tunes – in his campus apartment, at practice, and even on the team plane.

In Dewey’s wrestling days, he was known for phrases such as “can you smell what The Rock is cooking?,” ”just bring it,” “know your role,” and “candy ass.”

Here is Dewey knowing his role and just bringing his candy ass to a sideline heater during a game @ Pitt in 1993.

P.S. Hey Dewey, I’m just kidding.

#7 Sean Taylor @ FSU

Sean Taylor intercepted two passes, returning this one 50 yards for a score, and Miami built a 22-0 lead and held on to win 22-14 in a torrential downpour in Tallahassee in 2003.

In a game with weather conditions barely suitable for water fowl, Taylor intercepted a duck from FSU QB Chris Rix, ran down the sideline and dove over the goal line and into the virtual lake on his way into the end zone to put the ‘Canes ahead 19-0 late in the 1st half.

“Our motto was, ‘We’re going to come in here and punch them in the mouth,” Taylor said after the game. “And we weren’t going to stop punching them in the mouth.”

This game ranks at the top of bad weather ‘Canes football games I’ve worked, edging out the 2018 Georgia Tech game featured in image #20.

#6 Hester’s Home Debut

Devin Hester returns the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown during the ‘Canes 38-33 epic comeback win over UF in 2003.

This was Hester’s first home appearance in his Hurricanes career.

Hester’s return for a touchdown was his first of 7 special teams touchdowns of his ‘Canes career, foreshadowing his insane total of 20 special teams touchdowns in the NFL.

I don’t think I ever felt the Orange Bowl ground shake as much as it did during this play. The stadium was electric and this play is one of the all-time plays in ‘Canes history.

#5 Ed Reed @ the Rose Bowl

Defensive back Ed Reed dances through the paper rose petals after one of the greatest college football teams ever assembled won the 2001 National Championship with a 37-14 win over Nebraska at the Rose Bowl.

Reed led Miami with 9 tackles.

Six members of the 2001 Hurricanes were all-americans. 38 were drafted by the NFL, and 17 of those selections were first round picks.

And one is in the NFL Hall of Fame. Ed Reed.

Reed’s backup for the Rose Bowl? Sean Taylor.

Horribly underexposed, this photo had previously been unpublished. Always one of my favorites, only recently have I been able to process it into a displayable image.

#4 Andre Johnson @ the Rose Bowl

Wide receiver Andre Johnson holds the Sears Trophy after one of the greatest college football teams ever assembled won the 2001 National Championship with a 37-14 win over Nebraska at the Rose Bowl.

Johnson led Miami with 199 years receiving and two touchdowns, earning co-MVP honors with quarterback Ken Dorsey.

Of the 38 players from this team who were drafted by the NFL, 13 made the Pro Bowl a total of 43 times. Four Miami running backs on this roster have combined for 35,505 yards rushing in the NFL (as of today, as Frank Gore is still active), which are double the total of NFL Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, who held the career rushing record for almost two decades. 

Oh, and Payton’s son Jarrett was also on the 2001 ‘Canes roster.

#3 Juice & Surge

In 2014, the Hurricanes received a complete uniform makeover from Nike, including two alternate helmets nicknamed “Juice” and “Surge.”  The “Surge” helmet comes in Miami’s classic green and features tonal stripes to represent the ibis, the schools mascot, and also includes the iconic “U” logo across the side. The “Juice” helmet features the same design but done up in a full orange scheme.

During a short break while shooting the new uniform combinations prior to the season, I noticed the two helmets sitting on the turf, so I casually placed my iPhone 5 in the turf, angled it up and popped off a few shots.

Yes, I said iPhone 5.

After tweaking the image in the iPhone app Snapseed and tweeting out the image, it took off like wildfire. Numerous publications ran it, including the Washington Post, and I sold hundreds of downloads.

And it was shot with an iPhone 5.

#2 Vince Wilfork Will Eat You

A rematch of the regular season game between the ‘Canes and hated rival FSU took place in the 2004 Orange Bowl and was aptly named “Wide Right IV” due to more continued ineptness by a Seminoles kicker.

Despite another missed field goal, my favorite moment of the game is this image of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who is seemingly devouring FSU running back Leon Washington.

#1 Rix Wrecked

In a game that produced so many fantastic moments, Orien Harris stands over a seemingly defeated Chris Rix during the ‘Canes 22-14 victory over FSU in 2003.

The win was Miami’s fourth in a row over FSU and they would add two more to the streak before losing in 2005.

Every fall during rivalry week, this image makes the rounds on social media, for good reason, as this image aptly reflects the dominance the 2000-04 ‘Canes had over their most hated rival.

As for Rix, his career performances vs the Hurricanes says it all:

2001: 13-30 222 1/4 Loss

2002: 8-19 83 1/0 Loss

2003: 20-42 235 2/2 Loss

2004* 6-19 96 1/1 Loss

2004: 12-28 108 0/2 Loss

*Orange Bowl Classic

Published by

JC Ridley

JC Ridley is the long-time team photographer for the Miami Hurricanes and Florida Atlantic Owls, with over 25 years of experience in the photography industry. His images have been published in numerous publications, including Sports Illustrated. JC even spent seven seasons as a contributing photographer for the National Football League.

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