Shannon: 'Hard Times' to 'Canes Coach

The Associated Press
Saturday, December 9, 2006; 3:09 PM

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Once surrounded by bad examples and now surrounded by cameras and microphones, new Miami Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon politely declines to talk about the worst trouble he ever got into.

"Oh, I can't say that," he says. "I was in elementary school or junior high. It's my secret."

Shannon overcame the trials of youth to play linebacker for the 1987 national champion Miami Hurricanes. He started as a rookie 11th-round draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys, became a respected college assistant and was promoted this week to the job of head coach for his alma mater.

But it wasn't easy.

Shannon was 3 when the drug-infested Miami neighborhood of Liberty City, where he grew up, claimed his father in a murder. Two brothers and a sister died of AIDS. Another brother spent time in prison and stole Shannon's identity.

"Hard times," says the 40-year-old Shannon.

He became a father at 16. Six years later, he became the first member of his family to earn a college degree. Now he's the Hurricanes' first black head football coach, and only the sixth among the 119 coaches now in Division I-A.

Discussing his new job, the soft-spoken Shannon is chattier than usual and brimming with confidence. But when asked about celebrating, he talks of catching up on his sleep.

"I'm even keel," he says. "That's the way I deal with things, because I've been through a lot growing up, so I just take things as they come. I never try to get too emotional or excited by certain things, because you can set yourself up for a letdown."

Shannon came to the Hurricanes as a freshman in 1985 and has been a fixture with the program for much of the past two decades as a player or assistant coach. Divorced, he's the father of four, including a daughter who served in the Navy in Iraq and a son who plays center at Florida International.

Shannon seldom speaks of his personal trials, but those aware of them admire the new head coach even more for what he has achieved.

"He's a phenomenal individual when you consider what he has overcome," athletic director Paul Dee says. "It says everything about the kind of person he is."

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