Jan/24/13 08:55 AM Filed in: Ed Reed
MIAMI — Russell Maryland remembers being an overweight kid in Chicago, wondering if some college team was going to take a chance and give him a scholarship.
To this day, he remains thankful Miami saw something in him.
Maryland, one of two Hurricanes to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, was honored by Miami on Saturday night for his looming induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. At Miami, he was an All-American, Outland Trophy winner and a two-time national champion who finished with 279 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 20½ sacks.
“It means everything to me,” said Maryland, the No. 1 pick in 1991, four years after Vinny Testaverde was Miami’s first to receive that honor. “I put in a lot of hard work here at The U and anytime anybody remembers you for anything, it’s pretty special. So to come back and be recognized in this fashion in front of the whole stadium and in essence in front of the whole country as a guy who comes back home and is honored for what he did in the past, that’s an awesome thing to me, very special.”
Maryland brought his wife and three children to the game, where he was being recognized in an on-field ceremony and some other events. Many of his friends, family and some former teammates were in the stadium as well, part of the crowd watching the Hurricanes take on No. 17 Ohio State.
Like most former Hurricanes, he says the current scandal hanging over the program has been “depressing.”
Miami’s athletic department, including its compliance office, is being investigated and sanctions are expected in large part because former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro claims he gave extra benefits to 72 Hurricanes players and recruits over an eight-year span. Maryland told a story Saturday of how vigilant Miami’s compliance office has been with him in the past, saying he could not hand players water and towels when he was a guest on the sideline for games.
Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding the Ponzi scheme, in which federal prosecutors said he bilked investors out of $930 million.
“I know these kids are good,” Maryland said. “They’re good kids. I know the program is a program of integrity overall. You may have had some kids that made mistakes, but who of us hasn’t made mistakes? Who of us hasn’t been influence by dubious people at times? That’s really the frustrating part about it for me. I just look at it as a situation where a person, one person, came in and can really tear down all the good things that we have within this university. An infection, so to speak. It really hurts my heart.”
Saturday’s game was Miami’s first home contest since the scandal broke. All boosters, and in most cases even former players, are no longer allowed on the Miami sideline, a new policy created as part of the university’s response to the investigation.
“I’ll be there in spirit,” Maryland said. “Maybe not next to them, but I’m still there.”
Maryland said he believes the university will be able to handle whatever fallout comes from the investigation, and added he has confidence in new coach Al Golden and his plan to bring the Hurricanes back to a championship-contending level.
“From all accounts, from what I’ve been hearing from afar (and) from being down here the last couple days, I really feel very strongly that it’s going to be a positive future for the guys,” Maryland said.
Maryland has been retired from the NFL for about a decade. He lives in the Dallas area, mainly doing charitable work and motivational speaking.Click here to order Russell Maryland’s proCane Rookie Card.