Did you catch the final meaningful play in last week’s Miami game? Devin Hester did.
It was a thing of beauty, a perfectly entertaining reflection of the rebirth of Hurricanes football.
“Man, you see a play like that,” Hester said by telephone, “it takes the soul out of the opponent.”
The foe was Virginia Tech, which wanted to tack on a last-second touchdown to make the final score less gruesome. Josh Jackson fired into the end zone, but Miami cornerback Sheldrick Redwine picked it off. A Redwine toast rather than champagne?
The Miami native could have slid to put the 28-10 victory in the books. That’s how they do it in places like Iowa City and Lincoln. Not at “The U.”
Redwine picked up blockers, shifted the ball to his left arm and cruised toward the Miami sideline. After he got tackled, a team staffer gave him his reward, draping a 5.5-pound chain around his neck.
And not just any chain. The “turnover chain.”
Perhaps you’ve read about the shiny symbol of these undefeated and seventh-ranked Hurricanes, who host No. 3 Notre Dame on Saturday night in a de facto playoff elimination game.
Here are the essentials: Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz wanted a way to incentivize his cadre to create turnovers. Tennessee players celebrate turnovers by dunking the football in a trash can emblazoned with the orange letters “HTB” for “Hide the Ball.” Alabama, Ole Miss and Colorado State award WWE-style belts.
Diaz knows the culture; his Cuban-born father served as Miami’s mayor from 2001 to ’09. Diaz consulted with cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph and former Hurricanes defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, according to ESPN, and ordered up a comically massive gold-and-alloys chain with a giant “U” that’s filled with 900 orange and green sapphire stones.
“A great idea,” said Hester, an All-America kick returner at Miami who made three Pro Bowls with the Bears. “It was the missing piece of the puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. It really brought the swag back. When you see your friends get a reward like that, it makes you wish you had it.”
Hester intercepted five passes at The U and returned a fumble for a touchdown. He wishes the chain had been around from 2003 to ’05.
“I probably would have gone into the stands with it,” he said with a chuckle.
The chain seems to be working. Fifteen players have forced a total of 20 turnovers in eight games. Miami caused 19 all of last season.
The owner of the jewelry store that produced the chain, AJ “The King of Bling” Machado, has received hundreds of requests. He won’t say how much it cost to produce the original, telling the Miami Herald he gave the school “a hometown discount.”
The Instagram handle “2caneswiththechains” has a picture of Jennifer Lopez wearing a replica.
How many other fans will be wearing replicas Saturday night, when the Hurricanes host the Irish at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens? They figure to outnumber those in throwback “CATHOLICS vs. CONVICTS” T-shirts.
Hester hasn’t selected his outfit, but he will be there. And maybe if he hops on the field before the game, he’ll take a selfie with the No. 1 attraction in town.