For Ray Lewis III, going to Miami has been a safe assumption since the day he was born.
His father — the newly retired Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis — played for the Hurricanes. His mother went to Miami as well. So when it came time for their son to pick a school, the decision was easy.
Lewis III was one of 11 players to send letters of intent back to Miami on Feb. 6, joining a group of five more early enrollees in a class that the Hurricanes think can make an immediate impact.
Other big additions for Miami included wide receiver Stacy Coley, linebacker Jermaine Grace, safety Jamal Carter, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and quarterback Kevin Olsen, the brother of another former Hurricane, NFL tight end Greg Olsen.
Lewis III sent his letter of intent in very early Feb. 6, then with his father at his side, went through a ceremonial signing later in the day at his school, Lake Mary Prep near Orlando, Fla.
“I made a stand my junior year in college, the year he was born, that it was time for me to go to the league,” said Ray Lewis, who helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in his last game. “Now the year that he’s walking into college I’ve made another stand that it’s time for me to leave the league. Him being born has been a factor in entering the league and leaving the league.”
Miami landed several of its top targets, even with the incredibly long NCAA investigation into the school's athletic compliance practices still unresolved.
The NCAA was poised to send the Hurricanes their notice of allegations a couple weeks ago — then, in a bizarre twist, ordered an external inquiry into how its own investigators collected information. At the center of that external probe is the NCAA's relationship with attorney Maria Elena Perez, who represented convicted Ponzi scheme architect and whistle-blowing former booster Nevin Shapiro.
Perez has not divulged the nature of her contractual relationship with the NCAA, and NCAA President Mark Emmert wants to know why one existed. Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, and the claims he made in an article published by Yahoo Sports have hung precariously over the program for more than two years.
“We’re not just fighting the opposition,” Miami coach Al Golden said in a televised interview Wednesday. “We’re fighting the term ‘sanctions’ all the time. So it’s sanctions and the opposition versus us.”
Once Miami receives its notice of allegations, then the sanction process would begin. That could take several more months unless the NCAA and the Hurricanes settle beforehand, something that would appear to be possible given the college governing body's own acknowledgement that it botched parts of the Miami probe.
“The sanctions and some of those things, it didn’t change my decision whether I wanted to go there or not but it was something I thought about,” said Lewis III, who likely will be a defensive back in college. “It is unfortunate, but sometimes it’s got to get worse before it gets better.”
The way Miami sees things, things got better Feb. 6.
While the Hurricanes missed out on some blue-chip targets like a pair of Miami Booker T. Washington High teammates in linebacker Matthew Thomas (Florida State) and offensive lineman Denver Kirkland (Arkansas), they did make some late splashes, including Coley, a top-ranked player from talent-rich Broward County.
Many expected Coley to sign with Florida State. Instead, he pulled out a cap with the word “Swag” and done in Miami colors to announce his decision.
Coley's goal at Miami: “Win a national championship.”
Running back Augustus Edwards of Tottenville High in Staten Island, N.Y. was the day’s first commitment, his letter arriving by fax right around 7:01 a.m., one minute after the allowed start time. Edwards likely will be a short-yardage and blocking back at Miami, a key need in the class.
Another big need was defensive linemen, and Miami added junior-college player Ufomba Kamalu of Fayetteville, Ga., at that spot. Two of Miami-Dade's top prospects also signed with Miami, as expected — defensive back Artie Burns of famed Miami Northwestern High, and Carter, who played at Miami Southridge.
Grace had people guessing until late in the day, when he announced his intention at Miramar High, the same school that produced 2012 Miami signee Tracy Howard. Grace also said he wanted to play alongside Miami safety Deon Bush, another South Florida product.
“My auntie, she’s in love with coach Golden,” Grace said. “That's a big reason why I came, too. He's just a great guy. He's got a great spirit. He's down to earth. That’s why I like him.”
Ray Lewis, the now-former NFL star, has never hidden his affinity for Miami, and said he was doubly proud — both as a father and a former star 'Cane — to watch his son finally put his name on that coveted letter of intent ion.
“It’s almost overwhelming to try to understand what I’m feeling as a father,” Lewis said. “You have to keep your emotions in because it's the unreal part about it, that I walked two days from retiring and winning a Super Bowl to walking in and seeing my son following me to my alma mater. Who writes a storybook ending like that?”
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