We spend the first six weeks of every year cursing every high school star that doesn’t sign with our respective universities while spring and summer are spent forecasting the upcoming season.
At 5831 Ponce De Leon Blvd. in Coral Gables, it is college football 24/7.
All Sports has been the undisputed #1 Canes Shop for decades now but in recent years Harry Rothwell and staff have transformed a hole in the wall retail shop into a University of Miami landmark. Out of towners, mark down a trip to All Sports on your “things to do” list. Rank it right up there with a stone crab dinner at Joe’s.
To help ease the pain that the off season always brings, All Sports has found a way to enhance their customers’ experience with post season autograph sessions. It started a few years back and will continue for years to come.
In 1995 before he ever stepped foot on the Orange Bowl turf as head coach, former Cane leader Butch Davis paid a visit to All Sports to meet and greet Hurricane faithful. Hundreds lined up for the experience of shaking the head coach’s hand and attaining an autograph. Before Davis’ official in store appearance, one could drop by All Sports on any given day and find Hurricane players hanging out, talking shop or watching vintage Canes games on the TV. It was like Cheers without the beers. A sports bar without the bar.
One wouldn’t think twice if Ray Lewis or Warren Sapp was in store chatting with employees or fans a decade ago. These days it would be Willis McGahee or Ken Dorsey and family. No one would miss a step if they shopped and heard Art Kehoe’s voice bellowing throughout the store as he ranted and raved about a recent game. There would be nothing shocking about running into President Shalala as she doing her holiday shopping in this Hurricanes landmark. On any given day, a Hurricane legend past, present or future is probably in All Sports. Ask future UM quarterback Kyle Wright where he and his family paid a visit last season during a big game weekend. Players and parents alike have heard the buzz about this little mom and pop shop and have to see it for themselves.
January 2002, All Sports held its first official large scale signing session. Seniors Najeh Davenport, Markese Fitzgerald, Martin Bibla, Joaquin Gonzalez, James Lewis and Mike Rumph were in store weeks after capturing the National Championship with a Rose Bowl victory in Pasadena. It was an opportunity to give something back to the fans and what better place to host this celebration than this Hurricanes landmark.
Weeks later it was Ed Reed who had a signing session of his own due to scheduling conflicts that kept him from attending the event with his six senior teammates. Reed kept his promise to Harry and the bunch and like many past Hurricanes legends, still visits the store when he returns to Miami.
A Larry Coker meet and greet would follow as the Hurricanes leader took time out of his busy schedule to sign autographs for Miami faithful. A tradition that started in 2001 when baseball head coach Jim Morris had an autograph session to celebrate the Baseball Canes 2001 National Championship.
While every Cane was disappointed with the shaft Miami received in Tempe, it didn’t deter the masses from turning out the past few weekends to supports their favorite Canes in a couple post season autograph sessions.
It was a handful of 2002 seniors in the first session as Ken Dorsey, Brett Romberg, Sherko Haji-Rasouli, Todd Sievers, Matt Walters and Freddy Capshaw signed hundreds of autographs for local fans. Two weeks later it was Willis McGahee, Andrew Williams and Jerome McDougle that paid All Sports a visit and went through a handful of Sharpies as they signed everything placed in front of them until every fan left satisfied.
Next year All Sports will invite back yet another group of seniors and impact players and one would believe that a dozen or so Canes will take Harry and the bunch up on their hosting another mini, off season celebration to help pass the down time. For those who have been there and witnessed and event like this first hand, you know exactly what I am talking about. For those yet to experience it, start making plans for January 2004.
Just one more way to make the off season that much more tolerable. Thanks to Harry and All Sports crew not only for meeting all our Hurricane needs during the season – but for giving back to us fans in our time of need when there is no football to fill the void.
Looking forward to doing it again same time next year.
Born and raised in Miami, FL and a CanesTime.com columnist since 1995, Chris Bello now resides in San Diego, CA. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him for potential writing assignments at firstname.lastname@example.org