CORAL GABLES, Fla.-- No dream comes true without sacrifice and these young men have worked to make their dream of playing at the U come true. Here are the men behind the sacrifice...
Gionni Paul | Linebacker | Freshman | Lakeland, Fla.
Transitioning to college was hard. I'm not used to waking up at 5:30 in the morning. We're going to workouts then breakfast then study hall then class just to come back for more workouts. I find myself falling asleep walking sometimes (laughs).
Coach Golden talks a lot about teamwork. My old coach was based on family and teamwork too, so that wasn't a big change for me, they're coaches from the same path. Conditioning though, Coach Golden, boy, he's big on it. I never ran gassers like we've been doing. As a freshman coming in, I didn't know what to expect, I had to buckle down and go with the flow.
Coming out of high school, everyone says Miami has a big tradition and history. They said you'd see a lot of former players there that play in the NFL now. I didn't really take all that in, so when I first got here, my eyes got big. I could barely say anything around them, I thought about maybe getting an autograph, I would stutter every time I saw them. It was a big experience for me.
Playing football has given me a chance to get a great education.
One thing everyone should know about Miami football is that it's tough being a Hurricane. It doesn't come easy. It takes hard work in the classroom and hard work on the field.
The most influential people in my life are my dad and my mom. They both got their master's degrees in college. Education has always come first. They always told me 20% of my life will be football, and the rest is about raising a family, about character, and about becoming a great person. My mom and dad both have done all that. I have two brothers. One played basketball for the University of Missouri, but just transferred to East Carolina because the coach left. My other brother graduated, he played defensive end for the University of Michigan.
When I played football as a kid, I pretended to be Ray Lewis. I can't even lie, it was always Ray Lewis. I saw him dancing, acting a fool, it made me want to dance. When I got my first chance to meet him, my eyes lit up. He went to my high school, so he's talked to our team time after time. He's a hard-working man. One day, hopefully, I'll get close to his level. That's a big dream of mine.
I was originally committed to Arizona State because of Coach Dennis Erickson. He was formerly the Miami coach, and I liked what he did at the University of Miami. I was a big fan back around 2001. When I heard Coach Golden was coming to Miami, I looked him up on Google and saw what he did at Temple. My eyes lit up. Not many people take pride in the way coaches can turn a program around, but I do. I think Coach Golden, is an awesome, awesome, awesome coach. He's big on character, personality, work ethic, and all the things that my family believes in. I had offers from everywhere, over 50. I wouldn't talk to anyone. But Coach Golden, he came in and didn't really pressure me, he told me what was real, and he built a relationship with me. That's how I ended up here. I'm happy I'm here.
I got my U tattoo before signing day. I was so happy to be part of the U, so I got a tattoo to show it. It says half-Hurricane, half-human. I believe in it.
People might be surprised to know I'm majoring in civil engineering. I also love animals. I want to be a veterinarian one day.
My mom is a guidance counselor, and my dad works with a lot of students, he's a teacher and a dean. Both of them were always involved in the school system, so growing up, grades were always important.
I'm afraid of spiders.
The Golden Era is going to be big. I think it fits the program, I think we're going to do something special this year. We're going to shock the world. A lot of people look for a first-year coach to mess up or something, but my coach is going to do a wonderful job. He's going to put players on the field that make plays, and it's up to us to bring heart and swagger back to the game.
I'm a Hurricane because I take pride in the tradition and history. I always wanted to be a Hurricane. I grew up a Hurricane fan. When we were younger and used to have imaginary teams, we always used to fight over Florida State and Miami (laughs).
The best advice I've been given is to shoot for the moon, and if you miss you'll land amongst the stars. My dad told me that.
I don't really have superstitions before the game. I just pray before every game. I thank God for the position He put me in. I thank my coach for giving me the opportunity to play every game. Other than that, none really.
My favorite song right now is "How To Love" by Lil' Wayne.
When I was six years old, I was bad. My dad played in the pros, he had me on the track early. I considered myself well conditioned as a little boy (laughs).I used to play basketball. I actually had a few offers for it. I ran track, I even did the swimming team one year. I was always an all-around athlete. When you play football, you have to be able to do a lot, you have to be athletic.
I never thought I'd be here today. Going into my sophomore year, I didn't think I was big enough to play football at the next level. Instead I concentrated on academics and doing the right thing, all the time, even when nobody's looking.
I was raised to always be respectful, disciplined. I was raised in North Carolina and Detroit most of my life. Detroit's a rough place, so you always had to watch yourself, be respectful, and be disciplined. When we moved to North Carolina, I was brought to the country. That's when I started loving football. It was very hard moving here [Lakeland, Fla.] from there. I was used to wide-open space, riding dirt bikes, playing with bows and arrows, going in the woods and playing with snakes. Here, it's different. I like it though.
The actor I would want to play me in a movie is Kevin Hart.
I want to leave a legacy at the University of Miami. I want to be the most feared hitter whoever walked this campus. Just know #36 when he gets on the field.
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