Richt keep­ing for­mer play­ers in touch

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Tim Reynolds

The first week of train­ing camp at Mi­ami had just ended, and Hur­ri­canes coach Mark Richt made his way after prac­tice into a lun­cheon to do some re­cruit­ing.

He wasn’t seek­ing new play­ers.

His aim was to as­sist past ones.

Richt calls it “The U Net­work,” a pro­gram he’s been plot­ting ever since he re­turned to his alma mater to coach 20 months ago. It is now off the ground with a sim­ple mis­sion: to help any for­mer Mi­ami player, es­pe­cially those seek­ing a job. Richt, along with sev­eral mem­bers of his staff and other univer­sity per­son­nel, set up what be­came a net­work­ing event and job fair — the first of what will be many, Richt hopes.

“The U Net­work is a 365-days-a-year ad­ven­ture, so to speak,” Richt said. “We just want to help our guys con­nect with each other in a re­union-type thing, help friend­ships that al­ready ex­ist and make new friends within the foot­ball alumni. But also, if any­body feels for­got­ten or any­body feels like no­body cares, we do care. And we want ev­ery­body to know that we’re here to find work if they need work, or a good con­nec­tion, or just know that you’ve got friends.”

For the in­au­gu­ral event, Mi­ami had rep­re­sen­ta­tives from nu­mer­ous sides of the busi­ness world — the plumbers’ union, the Coral Gables Po­lice Depart­ment, builders, roofers, a floor­ing com­pany, the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try and oth­ers come out to talk to job-seek­ing Canes.

Dozens of for­mer play­ers from dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions and their fam­i­lies showed up — and at least one got a job on the spot. Oth­ers said they left with more meet­ings sched­uled, or at least a bet­ter idea of what might be out there in the mar­ket­place.

“I’ve been in busi­ness for over 30 years and it’s hard for me to ask for help,” said for­mer Mi­ami player John Fen­ton, who was a Richt team­mate with the Hur­ri­canes and now is a CEO coach in Atlanta. “I’ve come to the re­al­iza­tion that I can’t do it all my­self. None of us have all the an­swers. So this is a great way to con­nect, build re­la­tion­ships and get the help we need.”

Tol­bert Bain has no prob­lem ask­ing for help.

Bain was a start­ing de­fen­sive back for Mi­ami’s na­tional championship team in 1987. He went to prison in a heroin con­spir­acy case and served about three years, get­ting out in 2013. He went to the first U Net­work event in a suit, hop­ing some­one will give him a chance.

“Coach is straight up, a great guy. We have the right guy back in place to take the pro­gram back to its glory days,” Bain said. “When I heard about this, I knew it was a great idea.”

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