By David Villavicencio
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes have a long tradition of homegrown talent showcasing itself on the football field.
Canes legends like Michael Irvin, Sean Taylor, Jonathan Vilma, Santana Moss and Bennie Blades are just a handful of South Florida natives who shined while donning Miami’s orange and green.
Over the course of the 2013 football season, HurricaneSports.com will honor a Hurricane football player with South Florida ties as the Milam’s Market Homegrown Athlete of the Week. This week’s player spotlight is Southwest Ranches, Fla., native Brandon Linder.
Standout student-athletes often get the opportunity to play professionally in their respective sports.
Typically, these talented individuals jump at the chance to live their dream and reach the pinnacle of their profession.
But Brandon Linder is not your typical standout football player.
Linder was a star at football powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale. The massive offensive lineman was a highly-rated recruit that drew offers from nearly every major football program in America.
A U.S. Army All-American, Linder was first-team All-Broward and helped St. Thomas Aquinas to a 28-1 record in his last two seasons of high school football. The Raiders also won the Class 5A state title in 2008 and finished No. 1 in the country in 2009 thanks in part to Linder’s stellar play on the field and leadership off the gridiron.
When it came time to choose where he would play college football and further his education, Linder spurned offers from in-state stalwarts Florida and Florida State, as well as national powers Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Georgia.
Linder decided the best place for him to mature as a football player, student and person was at the University of Miami.
The maturation and developmental process began immediately as Linder played in all 12 games as a true freshman, making five starts during the 2010 season. Playing primarily as an extra lineman in the jumbo package, the 6-foot-6, 319-pound mountain of a man was technically sound from the very beginning.
Linder graded out at 97 percent against Georgia Tech and earned ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his stellar play at center, guard, tackle and tight end in Miami’s 26-10 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
As a sophomore, Linder established himself as one of Miami’s top offensive linemen. He started all 12 games and tied for a team-high, grading out at 90 percent for the season. The Hurricanes emphasize the elimination of mental errors and Linder recorded just seven over the course of the 2011 season while allowing just 1.5 sacks over 12 games that year.
Linder’s junior season may be his best to date. He started all 12 games at right guard and anchored an offensive line that paved the way for the third-best passing offense (295.4) and fifth-best total offense (440.2) in the ACC.
While Miami fans always recognized Linder’s stellar play, the standout lineman earned praise from the conference media and coaches. Linder was named third team All-ACC by Phil Steele and garnered honorable mention All-ACC accolades from both the ACSMA and the ACC coaches.
Following his strong performance as a junior and three impressive seasons at Miami, Linder faced a difficult decision. The veteran offensive lineman could leaver school early and enter the NFL Draft or put his professional football dreams on hold and return to Miami for his senior season.
The talented and versatile lineman chose the latter and has helped Miami to one of its best starts in recent history. At the time of his decision to return to school, Canes head coach Al Golden had this to say about Linder.
"We're blessed to have Brandon returning to our football team. He has clearly grown over the last year and has been a beacon of consistency for our student-athletes during an extraordinarily turbulent time. He's not only the most experienced Miami Hurricane having started 29 games in his career, possessing a 24 consecutive games started streak, but he is a tremendous student and one of our finest leaders.
"You can see in his demeanor that he has unfinished business on his mind and is excited about returning to Coral Gables for the 2013 season. Brandon will be considered among the best at his position in the ACC, if not the country."
Linder has proven Golden’s words to be fact as the veteran leader helped Miami to victories over No. 9/12 Florida and come from behind wins over Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest.
The talented lineman will look to continue his stellar play and strong leadership this weekend against Duke and over the remainder of his final season in Coral Gables.