As Hurricane Irma churned through the Caribbean and continued making her way toward Florida two weeks ago, 35 members of the Hurricanes football team gathered outside the Hecht Center in Coral Gables.
There, outside the athletic facility where they normally studied film, met with coaches and prepared for games like the Arkansas State matchup that Irma had forced school officials to cancel a day earlier, they boarded several charter buses that would take them away from their school and for some, their homes.
They were joined that Thursday night by athletes from other UM sports, football coach Mark Richt and his wife, Katharyn, and staff members from throughout Miami’s athletic department, including deputy director of athletics Jennifer Strawley. She and athletic director Blake James had spent days working on the decisions they hoped would help the Hurricanes weather Irma safely.
As the buses pulled away from Miami’s campus in the dark of night, there was an eerie silence.
The Hurricanes didn’t know then the kind of impact Irma would have on their program, their school or their community. What would Miami look like after the storm passed? Would their teammates staying behind with families in South Florida be safe? When things settled down, when would football matter again?
Their minds racing with questions, the Hurricanes began what became a 235-mile, 9½ hour journey to Orlando. Strawley was overcome.
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