The Penn sprint football program can thank current NFL stars Andre Johnson, Ed Reed and Clinton Portis for over 10 percent of its roster.
That’s because five of the team’s members are from Miami and grew up watching the University of Miami football team contend for several national championships in the early 2000s while Johnson, Reed and Portis were Hurricanes.
Sprint football players Freddy Ordonez, Danny Reyes, Rolando Lyles, Mike Hoyos and Jose Nino Domond all hail from Miami, where they fell in love with the sport. While having such a strong contingent from one area on any collegiate sports team is rare, it’s not surprising why much of the
future of the sprint football program consists of south Floridians.
“The culture of football in Miami is very strong,” said Reyes, a freshman. “Football goes first there for high-school sports and watching the University of Miami win championships.”
A decade after celebrating Miami’s last national championship season in 2001, it’s finally their turn to take the gridiron.
“Actually, this is my first year ever playing football,” said Lyles, a freshman who walked on for the Quakers this year. “I just wanted to try football because I loved the sport. So for me it’s just about learning the game.”
“Rolando and I don’t have a very strong football background and haven’t played very much football in the past,” Domond added. “But how many people after high school get to put on pads and get to play football again? It’s an opportunity that a lot of people don’t have and one that I’m trying to take advantage of.”
Transitioning into both a new sport at the collegiate level and a radically different culture has been tough for all five Miamians, but their common connections have made it easier.
“I consider south Florida and Miami to be the northernmost province of Cuba, like an extension of Latin America,” said Hoyos, a junior. “It really is a big cultural jump, so it’s cool having people up here that you can really relate to about that.”
“I honestly just call it Miami love,” sophomore Ordonez said. “So I love having more guys from Miami on the team.”
All five Miamians are either wide receivers, defensive backs, or both, but their football inexperience means they will have a lot to learn from position leaders like 2010 first-team All-CSFL receiver Witt Shaw and junior defensive back Chris Twombly, who are both expected to have impressive seasons.
“We’re just trying to help out the team the best we can and try to fill in spots that our team needs,” Reyes said.
When the Quakers battle Navy tonight at Franklin Field, though, they may need as much backup as possible.
“Their squad goes over 60 men deep while ours is probably in the light 40s,” Reyes said. “It’s probably our biggest game of the year every year. You’re going up against 21-year-old Navy SEALs, so it’s always a tough game for us and a game we look forward to.”