Mario Cristobal is excited about Alonzo Highsmith’s role in the UM organization

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One of the key off-court hires Miami head coach Mario Cristobal has made to the University of Miami program as he seeks to instill a different culture is bringing in the former Hurricane executive and the NFL, Alonzo Highsmith.


Highsmith was named Miami’s general manager of football operations in late May after spending 23 years in scouting and staffing at the NFL level, most recently as an executive adviser to the Seattle Seahawks’ general manager.


So what will Highsmith’s role be in UM’s football programme?


Cristobal shared his vision for Highsmith during a breakout session with local media.


“The first thing is he was a player at the University of Miami, so he gives a great insight into what it was like when things were going great,” Cristobal said. “He played under both coaches [Howard] Schnellenberger and trainer [Jimmy] Johnson and our plan are so influenced by those guys. He understands the culture, the regime, the structure that goes with it.


“His experience in the NFL and as an executive is also invaluable. He trained his eyes to be able to identify and assess talent in a different way. In the role of general manager, he will be responsible for doing this and also for training the young people we hire. He will help organize and structure our personnel department – recruiting and personnel are two different animals.


“His involvement with the underclass advisory board or scouting guys for the Senior Bowl and things like that makes him a terrific resource for and across the NFL as a liaison for the program. He can help educate guys in terms of what the NFL is looking for and the boxes they tick. It can also provide a dose of reality. There’s so much noise in college athletics and a lot of it revolves around the draft. You have to be really good to be drafted and you have to put in the time and it has to show up on film. It is not just an analyst’s projection on a network.


“The ability to help instill a culture, continue to meet and assess facets of staff, help reconnect alumni, and he plays a role with Dan Radakovich on the administrative side. There are a lot of things that go with the job he’s going to do.


Highsmith was the Houston Oilers’ third overall selection in the 1987 NFL Draft, the most drafted running back in Miami history. He spent his first three seasons (1987-89) with Houston, starting 40 consecutive games for three playoff teams, before being traded to Dallas. He spent a year and a half (1990-91) with the Cowboys before ending his career with Tampa Bay (1991-92). He retired after the 1992 season following a series of knee injuries. He played in 65 career regular season games and had 1,195 yards on 283 carries with seven touchdowns. He added 42 receptions for 428 yards and three touchdowns.


Highsmith played at Columbus High School in Miami before spending four years in Miami, playing for legendary coaches Howard Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson. As a freshman fullback, he led the Hurricanes to a rush to the 1984 Orange Bowl, helping Miami defeat Nebraska to win the first of its five national championships.


Highsmith led the Hurricanes with a career-high 906 rushing yards as a sophomore, and again paced Miami in rushing yards his senior season (442). He finished his career with 1,914 rushing yards, which at the time was second only to Ottis Anderson on Miami’s all-time rushing yards list. Highsmith had 2,935 career all-purpose yards and 25 total touchdowns. He earned a degree in business administration and in 1997 was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.


Miami shook up leadership within the athletic department and football organization this offseason and the addition of Highsmith is another example of a proven leader working to bring UM back to national prominence.

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