HOF inductee Russell Maryland has plenty of love for 'The U'

Standing behind the bench, Russell Maryland gaped as Vinny Testaverde escaped a sack, dodged five tackles, juked here, faked there and then exploded 10 yards for a first down. Remembering that 1986 game against Oklahoma, Maryland, who was not yet playing for the University of Miami, marked this play as the most influential part of his career.

Now, 26 years later, Maryland is adding his own impressive move to his résumé: the College Football Hall of Fame.

Maryland, 16 other players and five coaches will be enshrined Saturday in South Bend, Ind. Although the honor is an individual award, Maryland said his successes are wholly due to teammates such as Testaverde.

"They were the ones that trained me on how to become a great collegiate football player," Maryland, now 43, said in an interview with USA TODAY SPORTS. "I may be the one getting the honor, but it's really about the whole university."

The defensive lineman began playing at "The U" as a redshirt freshman in 1987 and recorded 279 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 20½ sacks in his career. During those four years, the Hurricanes won two national titles, four bowl games, had a perfect home record and a 44-4 overall record.

But for Maryland, who went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL, his football career almost ended after high school.

He grew up in Chicago and attended Whitney M. Young High, where he played offense and defense for the Dolphins. Maryland was offered a scholarship to Indiana State but said his father made him turn it down.

"I was a guy who was pretty much left unrecruited because I was just one of thousands of Chicago kids who played football," Maryland said.

His father was unhappy with Maryland's bid to Indiana State, so he compiled a video and mailed it to Miami. "One thing led to another and they offered me the last scholarship in 1986. That's where my dad wanted me to go, so that's where I went."

In his senior season, Maryland was defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl and became the first Hurricane to win the Outland Trophy. He was the first pick of the 1991 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He also played for the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers.

"Since then I've largely been living under the radar," Maryland said, adding that he is now a self-proclaimed "Mr. Mom" to his three children: Kyra, 15; Iris, 12; and Russell Jr., 8. "The greatest thing about playing in the NFL is now I have this extra time to do things with the kids. Dad knows all the cheers just as well as the girls do."

Every morning before the bus comes, he and Junior throw a football around in their Texas yard. And even though Maryland has replaced playing with teaching, he hasn't forgotten about the Hurricanes.

"Anything I can do to help the University of Miami program, I'm there," he said. "There are a lot of great kids that go through that program. We've built a tradition of hard work, excellence, sacrifice and just a great work ethic out there on the football field and that's what I try to convey to them."

The reputation of his Hurricanes was blemished last August, though, when Yahoo! Sports published reports of players accepting illegal benefits from Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro from 2002-10. At least 72 athletes from the football and basketball programs are alleged to have accepted cash, prostitutes, jewelry, bounties for on-field play and, in one case, an abortion, according to Yahoo.

The NCAA investigation is ongoing.

"It's unfortunate that happened," Maryland said. "We let our guards down and let those who didn't have our best interest at heart infiltrate. It fills me with sadness and anger."

But it'll only be a minor setback, he said.

"We've had some battles in the past, but the University of Miami always seems to bounce back and I don't see this being any different." Maryland said. "You will weather some storms as a family unit, but when you build a solid foundation and you have some good people in your corner, you will bounce back. The University of Miami will bounce back."

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