This trio of Linebackers, Michael Barrow, Darrin Smith and Jessie Armstead of the Miami Hurricanes were about as good of a set as any I have seen in all my years of watching the game. They became known as the Bermuda Triangle.
When the Miami Hurricanes hired Howard Schnellenberger back in the late 1970s, his goal was to cut off South Florida from outside recruiters and keep the best talent at home and then cherry pick the rest of the nation for more talent. After Schnellenberger resigned to take a professional job, Jimmy Johnson was hired away from Oklahoma State and he carried that plan out as well and so did his
successor Dennis Erickson. The plan worked beautifully as Miami became one of the nation’s very best football powerhouses. Their battles with Florida State and Notre Dame became the stuff of legends and they won national championships in 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001. They played in several more national championship games and just lost on a few more titles.
The plan made it crystal clear that South Florida produces some of the very best talent in the country. Not all of them want to stay home and there are many of them on other team rosters as far away as the Big 10 and the Pac 12.
Miami, with it’s sandy beaches and night life, has always been able to lure players from other parts of the country as well. Their famous Quarterbacks, for instance, almost all came from around the country. Jim Kelly played high school football at East Brady, Pennsylvania. Bernie Kosar was from Youngstown, Ohio. Vinnie Testaverde was signed by the Hurricanes out of Long Island, New York by way of Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. Steve Walsh was from St Paul, Minnesota and on and on. These guys were no doubt lured to South Florida by the passing offense of the Hurricanes and the warm South Florida beaches.
Apparently, it was the perfect mixture for championship college football teams.
Linebacker Michael Barrow signed with the Miami Hurricanes out of Homestead, Florida in the 1989 class. Homestead is a suburb of Miami and even though Michael Barrow was no doubt heavily
recruited he chose to stay home and play for the Hurricanes.
Darrin Smith was a Miami guy born and raised. He played his high school football at Miami Norland High School which has produced a great number of college football players and beyond.
Smith was a burner having been a sprinter on the track team and running a 10.7 100 meter dash. That’s not world class speed, by any means, but it is particularly outstanding for a Linebacker.
Apparently, it didn’t appeal to him to leave town to play college football and he signed up with the Canes. He was a year ahead of Michael Barrow and Jessie Armstead, but redshirted his first year at Miami.
Jessie Armstead was the best player out of Texas when he was recruited by the Hurricanes. He committed to the Canes in a hot tub smoking a cigar if memory serves me correct.
His Dallas Carter High School football team won state in football and Armstead was the most highly recruited player in the entire state even ahead of hot shot Robert Strait out of Cuero, Texas.
His high school team was loaded with talent with 5 of them going on to play in the NFL.
Sadly, the second highest rated recruit on that Dallas Carter team had signed with Tennessee, but he along with another highly touted guy, Gary Edwards, held up some stores and were sentenced to serious time in prison.
Armstead threatened to try and get out of his Letter of Intent when Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, who recruited all three of these Linebackers left the Hurricanes to take over the Dallas Cowboys. But, he was fine after the Canes hired Dennis Erickson.
These three Linebackers played a role in the 1989 Miami national championship, and they were all either starting or playing significant roles on the 1990 Hurricane team except for Jessie Armstead because he had injured his knee severely.
The three of them were major factors and team leaders with the 1991 Miami team that split a national championship with Washington. The team was 12-0 with only close wins over Penn State, Florida State and Boston College.
All three of these guys were punishing tacklers, with great speed and intensity.
USC had a great group of Linebackers including Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, Ray Maualuga, and Kaluka Maiava who all were outstanding collegians that went on to the NFL.
The Ohio State Buckeyes in 2005 had AJ Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel and were every bit the match of the Texas Longhorns and the USC Trojans of 2005.
If I had to pick the best of that group, I am not even sure which I would go with.
Michael Barrow was a Consensus All American in 1992 and then he was a 2nd round draft pick by the Houston Oilers. He played for the Oilers the Carolina Panthers, the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins and then the Dallas Cowboys. He had well over a 1,000 tackles in the NFL and started 153 total games.
Barrow retired from football and got into coaching and was recently named the replacement for Ken Norton Jr with the Seattle Seahawks.
Darrin Smith was a two time All American at Miami before being taken in the 2nd round by Jimmy Johnson of the Dallas Cowboys and starting there for a few seasons. He jumped from the Cowboys to the Philadelphia Eagles and then the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints.
Smith got his masters degree in marketing and has a real estate investment company in his old home town of Miami. He also spends time helping kids in his city.
Jessie Armstead may have been the most publicized coming out of high school, but for whatever reason he was out shined by his Linebacking partners.
He fell all the way to the 8th round of the NFL Draft, but the New York Giants finally figured out he might be a player and took him. He was a 5 time Pro Bowler with the Giants and played for them for 9 seasons before signing a big free agent contract with the Washington Redskins. He played for the Skins for a couple of years and eventually made his way back to New York so he could retire there. Last I heard he was working for the Giants in management.
Whether you love or you hate the Miami Hurricanes, you have to admit that this Linebacker trio was pretty outstanding.
The nicknamed Bermuda Triangle was about as good as it got in college football.