54 Days to Miami football: Rusty Medearis career cut short

5 SEP 1992: Matthew Stockman/ALLSPORT
5 SEP 1992: Matthew Stockman/ALLSPORT /

Defensive end Rusty Medearis accomplished in just over two seasons what more renowned Miami football players did in their three or four-year Hurricanes career. Only a devastating injury prevented Medearis from bigger numbers.

Defensive end Rusty Medearis was one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the history of the Miami football program. In just over two seasons, Medearis recorded 22 sacks tied with another number 54, Bill Hawkins for seventh in Miami history. Medearis’ legend was born in the first start of his collegiate career.

In the Hurricanes 1990 game at Texas Tech, as a freshman, Medearis had 12 tackles, nine solo and 5.5 sacks to earn the Sports Illustrated Defensive Player of the Week in a 45-10 Hurricanes victory over the Red Raiders. Medearis continued an outstanding freshman season being named a 1990 freshman All-American.

Medearis finished the season with 10 sacks, second on Miami to future number one overall NFL Draft pick and 1990 Outland Trophy Winner Russell Maryland. The big games continued against teams from Texas. Against the vaunted Houston offense, Medearis recorded two sacks against 1990 Heisman Trophy finalist David Klingler.

Medaris continued to dominate in big games. During the 1991 National Championship season, Medearis had 2.5 sacks in a 26-20 victory over number nine Penn State, two at number one Florida State in the Wide Right I game and four in the 22-0 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl that clinched the National Championship.

Medearis earned All-Big East and second-team All-American as a sophomore in 1991. Miami finished first in the country in 1991 allowing 8.3 points per game. Big things were ahead for Medearis but a devastating knee injury ultimately halted his career. An innocuous block by Hicham El-Mastoub of Arizona tore up Medaris’ knee.

Miami players called it a cheap shot at the time, but both Medearis and El-Mashtoub acknowledged no harm was intended. Playing on a defensive line with Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, El-Mashtoub described Medearis as unblockable. Arizona nearly upset Miami in an 8-7 loss at the Orange Bowl.

"“He was amazing…I watched film of Rusty before we played Miami last year. There didn’t seem to be a way to stop him.”"

Medearis had been a pre-season All-American in 1992. Thirteen hours of surgery that could have eventually cost Medearis his leg was ultimately what cost him his career. Medearis did not play at all in 1993 and returned for the first two games of the 1994 season and made six tackles. The pain was too much and Medearis retired.

Miami played Arizona at the end of the 1994 season in the Hurricanes house of horrors, the Fiesta Bowl. The Wildcats won 29-0 on the homefield of their archrival at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State in Tempe. Miami would not play in a major bowl game again until the 2001 Sugar Bowl against Florida.

Next. 55 Days to Miami football: Shaq Quarterman starts leader. dark

Number 54 was one of the hardest numerals to assign as the best player to wear that jersey. Hawkins was an All-American defensive lineman for Miami in the 1980s who played in the NFL and linebacker Jay Brophy was a key player on the Hurricanes defense during their first National Championship in 1983.