They are local celebrities and successful businessmen, designers and restaurateurs. But above all, they are the hometown heroes of the U football.
The founders of Out The Huddle at the WeWork Security Building.
It was the golden era of Miami Hurricanes football: a team led by Larry Coker that capped off an undefeated season with a whomping of Nebraska at the Rose Bowl and a BCS Championship title; a squad of unprecedented talent that had 38 NFL draft picks. The 2001 University of Miami football team is what legends are made of. Four of those legends: Antrel Rolle, Brett Romberg, D.J. Williams and Jonathan Vilma. They are pro ballers, Hall of Famers and owners of a couple of Super Bowl rings. They are also the founding members of Out The Huddle, a content platform dedicated to all things The U. We sat down to talk the past, present and future of Canes football. And boy, did they bring the swagger.
The four of you were part of arguably the best college football team to ever exist.
D.J. WILLIAMS: Not arguably.
The best college team to ever exist. How has that impacted everything that you’ve done since you left The U?
BRETT ROMBERG: I would say the community is probably one of the main reasons why we all eventually came back to Miami. Whether you’re from here or not, the way the community embraces that ’01, ’02, ’03 Miami Hurricanes team is next level.
DW: Once a week somebody comes up and shakes my hand and says how much they appreciate what we did throughout those years. They don’t want an autograph, they don’t want to post a picture. They just want to say, ‘Hey, man, I appreciate you.’
Vilma is an analyst on ESPN’s College Football Saturdays.
Did you always know you’d come back to Miami?
ANTREL ROLLE: I played professional football [in New York, Chicago and Phoenix] and this is where I am always going to be embraced. This is home; this is my roots.
BR: This fool’s made so much money, but he went back to the same neighborhood that he grew up in.
JONATHAN VILMA: It was never a doubt that I would come back because I just love the lifestyle of Miami.
What keeps you all busy in Miami these days?
DW: With Dyme Lyfe my goal is to make the best fan gear, and have University of Miami be known for that. Recently I started Player Culture to help young players brand their likeness through apparel.
Jonathan, talk to me about Pincho Factory. Did you always know you would go into the food business?
JV: I knew I would be in business; I didn’t know in what. Frankly I’m a deal junkie. I got involved with Pincho Factory in 2015 and opened the Brickell location in 2016. We won Burger Bash, and since then, they’ve had a really strong following. Now it’s just a matter of taking it regional and hopefully national.
Let’s shift to the current state of The U. How do you think coach Mark Richt is doing?
BR: He inherited a group that lacked discipline. And when you lack discipline, then you lack mental toughness. I think that he and his staff did a good job with the guys he inherited, and the guys he’s recruited. Of course as Hurricanes fans, we always expect more.
DW: The players have huge shoes to fill, and everyone’s always asking, ‘When are they going to get back to the 2001 level?’ And you know my answer is that there will never be another team like ours. Not because of the talent level. We just had a different mindset.
DW: I always say joking around that we had guys with an off and on switch, guys that might break into your house, but could put on a suit and tie. They looked like thieves but are some of the sweetest guys I know. And when it came time for game time, we all shared the same passion.
Is the mindset of college athletes different now?
BR: I might sound like an old dude, but I think the sense of entitlement with all the young kids changes the game.
DW: The end goal is written all over their face. We all wanted to go to the NFL and make money, but that wasn’t what drove us day in and day out. You talk to a freshman now and he already has his plan in place.
How can a coach make a player feel like they are a part of something bigger than their own personal goal?
BR: It’s hard to answer that because to build up that passion, you have to make the player love everyone else around him without destroying his confidence.
What role do the alumni play in the team development?
DW: As a small private school, our strength has always been the alumni, knowing that as a college player you’re gonna be shoulder to shoulder in the weight room with legends. You can go out on the practice field when you are a freshman or sophomore, and hey the NFL guys just came in for 7 on 7. And if you can compete with them on that stage and on that field, then what you are going to see on Saturday is nothing.
D.J. Williams and Antrel Rolle
Antrel, with everything we know about concussions, will you allow your son to play football?
AR: I’ll never tell him he can’t do something. The only thing I can do is push other sports on him, like basketball and baseball. Sports that make a little more sense. I don’t see the need for contact sports before the age of 10 years old.
What are your predictions for the season?
DW: The team goes as [Malik] Rosier goes. Last season he left a lot on the field. I’m hoping that the coaching staff has instilled a little bit more confidence in him to try and make some plays. They just have to watch out for the upset, the small schools that creep up on you.
BR: One thing that’s for sure is that we owe Pittsburg an ass whooping because they fed us our lunch. I’m still bitter about that game. The FIU game is another big one with Butch Davis back in the building.
JV: I predict an ACC title game. I don’t know if we are going to win that game; it depends who comes out from the other side. But I think that if we beat LSU, we’ll be favored in every game throughout the rest of the year. And it’s a good chance that we could run the table.