Miami football is back to being the hottest ticket in South Florida. Long-missing celebrity fans are buying up suites at Hard Rock Stadium. Former players are roaming the sidelines before games in Miami Gardens, Fla. Famous alumni across the country are wearing their own makeshift turnover chains and tweeting about the Hurricanes. So it’s fitting College GameDay is visiting Miami on Saturday for the first time in more than a decade for the No. 10 Hurricanes’ game against No. 3 Notre Dame.
There will be no shortage of choices to take ESPN’s GameDay stage as a guest picker in Coral Gables, Fla. From legendary players and lifelong celebrity fans, to ESPN-affiliated alumni and Miami musicians, the Hurricanes have plenty of options. Here are some of the best choices ESPN could make:
Alex Rodriguez, former MLB All-Star and Miami native
He may not be an alumnus, but Alex Rodriguez is a lifelong Miami fan. The three-time American League MVP spent most of his childhood in Miami, playing baseball and football for Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay, Fla. He signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball for the Hurricanes before he was selected No. 1 overall by the Mariners in the 1993 MLB Draft.
His ties to the university persisted even though he never suited up for Miami. The 14-time All-Star donated nearly $4 million to the athletic department in 2003 to renovate the baseball stadium, which was renamed Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field after his donation.
For those who didn’t know about Rodriguez’s fandom, it became common knowledge Saturday during the Hurricanes’ 28-10 win against No. 13 Virginia Tech. Rodriguez was spotted in a box alongside girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, wearing a turnover chain of his own.
A-Rod and J. Lo reppin’ the pic.twitter.com/lXUIR6jLwp
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 5, 2017
Warren Sapp, former Miami All-American
Warren Sapp was inducted into Miami’s Ring of Honor alongside Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin and Sean Taylor earlier this year, and he made a return to Hard Rock on Saturday for the Hurricanes’ win against the Hokies.
Sapp’s credentials speak for themselves. He was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American in 1994, and became an even bigger star in the NFL. The Hall of Fame defensive tackle was a six-time All-Pro, won the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and helped the Buccaneers win Super Bowl XXXVII. He’s perhaps the most likely option from Miami’s long list of legendary players, with his big personality and experience as an NFL Network analyst.
Ray Lewis, former Miami All-American linebacker
Lewis, though, probably would be the biggest star, and is a former ESPN personality, too. Now with FOX Sports, the Hall of Fame middle linebacker is perhaps the most famous former Hurricane of the 1990s – at least with one notable exception we’ll get to later.
Like Sapp, Lewis was inducted into the Ring of Honor earlier this season, and was just as big a star in the NFL as he was in college. The linebacker followed up a pair of All-American honors with the Hurricanes by winning a pair of Super Bowls with the Ravens and being named a first-team All-Pro seven times.
Michael Irvin, former Miami wide receiver
Irvin was the third big-name Miami alumnus inducted into the Ring of Honor this fall and is out in Miami Gardens more often than any of the other three. That’s because the Hall of Fame wide receiver has a big tie to this current team – Michael Irvin II is the Hurricanes’ current backup tight end.
Irvin followed up a national championship in college with a trio of Super Bowls as the Cowboys’ top wide receiver and has had success as a broadcaster, as well. Currently he’s with NFL Network, which means Sunday obligations could make a night game tough to manage.
Ed Reed, former Miami All-American safety
Ed Reed wasn’t down in South Florida to be inducted into the Ring of Honor alongside Lewis, Sapp and Irvin, but we know he’ll be in attendance Saturday. Miami announced the Super Bowl champion will be the honorary captain this weekend and is spending the week around the team.
DB Jaquan Johnson talks about what it’s like to have Ed Reed around the facility, the crowd at Hard Rock and more. pic.twitter.com/A2JrA6Te37
— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) November 7, 2017
Who knows what his pregame plans will be, but he could make an appearance on GameDay.
Dan LeBatard, ESPN radio host
Dan LeBatard is the easy option for ESPN. LeBatard’s daily radio show broadcasted by WAXY in Miami is one of ESPN Radio’s most popular shows and LeBatard also hosts Highly Questionable every week day on ESPN.
There are bigger names out there than LeBatard, but he’s the national media’s most prominent authority on all things South Florida sports. Plus, maybe his father could make an appearance, too.
Flo Rida, musician
There are flashier musicians from Miami, although I’m not sure any of them are tweeting about getting Hurricanes commits into the Under Armour All-America Game. The Miami Gardens native sponsors a youth football league in the area and decked out Miami Gardens’ Carol City Senior High School in some exceptionally flashy jerseys in 2012.
You got my vote! https://t.co/7Uvp4RvYdH
— FLO RIDA (@official_flo) November 7, 2017
The rapper knows his football and would be a hyper-local, somewhat realistic choice despite his lack of explicit ties to the Hurricanes. Flo Rida’s music is also probably played during ESPN broadcasts and in stadium more than anywhere else.
Mr. Worldwide doesn’t have any explicit ties to the university either. It’s hard to find someone more outwardly prideful of his hometown, though. Born in Miami, Pitbull is the son of Cuban immigrants and graduated from Miami Coral Park High School. He’s given himself the moniker “Mr. 305” because of the Miami area code.
The timing, by the way, works out perfectly. The rapper is scheduled to play a concert with Enrique Iglesias on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Dwayne Johnson, actor
The Rock is one of the biggest actors on the planet, and before he was starring in The Fast and the Furious movies or even was raising eyebrows in the ring as a WWE wrestler, he was a national champion defensive lineman for the 1991 Hurricanes.
Dwayne Johnson would be the ultimate coup as a guest picker. He’s knowledgable about football, truly a fan of the team and endlessly charming. Seriously, how many memorable moments would five minutes of Johnson’s interplay with Lee Corso manufacture?
And above all else, it’s not totally unreasonable. Dany Garcia, Johnson’s ex-wife, has served on the university’s Board of Trustees.
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