Former Miami Hurricanes football star leaves NFL to join UM athletic department

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Another former Miami Hurricane is coming home.

The Miami Hurricanes are naming legendary UM fullback, 1987 first-round NFL Draft pick and longtime NFL scouting executive Alonzo Highsmith the newly created General Manager of Football Operations, a source told the Miami Herald.

A well respected talent evaluator, Highsmith, 57, will work alongside Miami native and coach Mario Cristobal and new athletic director Dan Radakovich in a scouting-intensive capacity, overseeing all recruiting operations and building a department intent on acquiring top talent. He will be in Miami ready to begin his new job on Monday.

Highsmith has most recently served as senior executive advisor to Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider. He helped lead the Hurricanes to their first national title in 1983 under Howard Schnellenberger. Four decades later, the University of Miami has faith he can do the same — but this time in a different capacity.

Highsmith signed a multiyear contract, the source told the Herald.

The hope is that Highsmith, who served as vice president of personnel in 2018 and ‘19 for the Cleveland Browns, as well as 19 seasons with the Green Bay Packers personnel department, will help Cristobal and his highly regarded football staff continue to revive the luster of the five-time national champion football program that has sunken to mediocrity since its last title in 2001.

Highsmith was formerly a candidate for the AD job that went to Radakovich. He was nearly hired in a high-level UM football administrator/general manager type role after former football coach Manny Diaz’s first season in 2019. But in the end, as Highsmith previously indicated, it was the Miami Board of Trustees members who wanted him more than the former staff, as Diaz likely didn’t want someone looking over his shoulder on day-to-day issues.

Highsmith, who met his wife Denise at UM and has three sons and two daughters, knows the South Florida community intimately and has been immersed in Miami football since his playing days from 1983 to 1986. He was drafted as the third overall pick by the Houston Oilers in 1987, and had a six-year NFL career with the Oilers, Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Respected by fellow former players and current NFL personnel for his evaluation of talent and overall football knowledge, Highsmith has been involved with the UM program as an alum and is obviously considered a UM football insider.

At UM, where Highsmith is in the Sports Hall of Fame, he finished his career with 1,914 yards. He also had 2,935 all-purpose yards, at the time the fifth most for a Hurricane, and scored 25 touchdowns. His four touchdowns against Notre Dame in 1984 is still tied with four others for third best for a single game.

Highsmith is a graduate of Miami Columbus High, where he was an All-American defensive end before being converted to a fullback for the Canes — and where Cristobal also played and went to high school. The Columbus connection includes new Miami offensive line coach Alex Mirabal and major UM donors that include brothers Jose and Jorge Mas, owners of Mas Tec, a $6.6 billion infrastructure contractor.

Highsmith’s son, A.J., played at UM as a safety and quarterback from 2009 through 2013, and is now a college scout with the Buffalo Bills.