Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne was home relaxing last fall when he got the phone call.
“Congratulations!’’ announced close friend Santana Moss, a Washington Redskins receiver and University of Miami teammate of Wayne’s in the late 1990s.
“Thank you,’’ Wayne replied skeptically.
“So, what exactly am I being congratulated for?’’
At 7 p.m. Thursday, Wayne will be one of three former UM football players – including Moss and retired NFL linebacker Dan Morgan – to be inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame at Jungle Island.
The other five: divers Daphne Jongejans-Bousquet and Tyce Routson, women’s tennis coach Ian Duvenhage, baseball player Bobby Hill and track-and-fielder Yolanda McCray.
“So sweet!’’ said Wayne, 32, the father of boys ages 7 and 1. “The brotherhood of my UM teammates has stuck with me like nothing else.’’
Morgan, 32, played at Coral Springs Taravella High and is the father of a 3-year-old son and daughters 5 and 2. He is traveling to the ceremony from his home in Charlotte, N.C., where he once played for the Carolina Panthers. Morgan called Thursday’s honor “crazy’’ and said his UM memories “are just as fresh in my head now as they were back then. I think of coming in with guys like Reggie and Santana, coming off the probation years and having that little weight room with barely any air-conditioning. We wanted to win so badly. In some ways, we’re like the forgotten people who were a big part of helping bring the Miami program back.’’
Not nearly forgotten, though they graduated and left to become NFL first-rounders just nine months before their younger teammates won UM’s first national title in 10 years. Wayne, Morgan and Moss were freshmen in 1997 and played through 2000, the year the Canes went 11-1 and were edged out by Florida State in the final Bowl Championship Series standings.
Theirs was the class that never got to the promised land, but laid the groundwork for their successors to get there. Theirs was the class that became Hurricanes in the midst of severe NCAA sanctions, determined to bring the program from its low point to the mountain top.
The Seminoles, losers to UM in 2000, went on to lose to Oklahoma in the BCS national championship game, while UM defeated Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Canes could only lament their lone 34-29 loss at Washington in the second game of the season – quarterback Ken Dorsey’s first road start. That would be UM’s last loss before a momentous 34-game win streak that included a national title and ended with the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State in another national championship game.
“I always consider our class as builders of the foundation,” said Wayne, who went 5-6, 9-3, 9-4 and 11-1 under Butch Davis. “We had a bunch of true freshmen who didn’t know the difference between our left and right feet, but we hung in there as brothers and took the good with the bad, took coaching pretty well and made it our business to get better every year. We showed everyone the way. But just think. If we could have redshirted, we would have won a title.
“Still, the way my life has gone,” said Wayne, a former Super Bowl champion and New Orleans native who lives with his family in Southwest Ranches, “I wouldn’t take it back for anything in the world. It’s storybook.’’
Moss, 31, grew up in Miami, graduated from Carol City High and has an offseason home near Pompano Beach. He said he was in awe when he learned he was to be inducted, like his teammates, in his first season of eligibility.
“I went down the list and was like, ‘Man! Did this guy get in yet? Did that guy get in yet?’ ” said Moss, who has a 6-year-old daughter and sons 10 and 1. “The years have gone by so fast, but I’ve never forgotten a moment that I spun at that school.
“I was pushed onto the field and I grew up from there. I caught the first pass thrown to me, a post corner on the sideline from Ryan Clement against Pittsburgh. It was the third game of my freshman year. Those are memories you never forget.’’
Some of Moss’ favorite UM moments: Beating FSU for the first time as a senior and his last game in the Orange Bowl against Boston College, a 52-6 victory in which he scored three touchdowns and set the all-time UM all-purpose yards record with 4,402. He also broke a 62-year-old UM career punt-return record by accumulating 1,196 yards over his four seasons.
Morgan’s favorite memory was defeating the top-ranked Seminoles 27-24. “Absolutely the happiest time in my Hurricane history,’’ said the linebacker who won the Bednarik and Butkus Awards and Nagurski Trophy in 2000.
And Wayne’s most cherished memory, besides breaking the UM record for career receptions (173), which still stands: “Making a pledge after our 5-6 freshmen year that we wouldn’t cut our hair until we made a bowl game – me, Santana, Darryl Jones, Ed Reed, Delvin Brown… We beat N.C. State in the Micron PC Bowl
in 1998, and I went back to my old look. The dreads and stuff were never me.
“The years do go by fast,’’ Wayne said. “But I’ll always be a Hurricane.’’Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s or Santana Moss’s or Dan Morgan’s proCane Rookie Card.