Miami Football: 15 greatest players of the Jimmy Johnson era

Jan 2, 1989; Miami, FL, USA; FILE PHOTO; Mandatory Credit: Photo By USA TODAY Sports © Copyright USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 1989; Miami, FL, USA; FILE PHOTO; Mandatory Credit: Photo By USA TODAY Sports © Copyright USA TODAY Sports /
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The Miami football program had 10 All-Americans during the five-year Jimmy Johnson era. Johnson was hired in 1984 after Miami won its first national championship. Howard Schnellenberger set the foundation for the Miami football program. Johnson gave Miami its swagger.

Johnson lost more games in his first season with Miami than in his final four years. Miami began the 1985 season with a 35-23 loss to Florida, then won 10 consecutive games, just like the 1983 team did on their way to a national championship. A 35-7 loss to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl cost Miami the national title.

The Miami football team went 11-0 in the regular season in 1985 before losing 14-7 to Penn State in another poor bowl performance by QB and 1986 Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde. The third time was the charm for Johnson when Miami beat Oklahoma 20-14 to win the 1988 Orange Bowl and National Championship.

Miami Football All-Americans Under Jimmy Johnson

Eddie Brown, WR

Willie Smith, TE

Bennie Blades, DB
Jerome Brown, DT
Vinny Testaverde, QB

Bennie Blades, DB
Daniel Stubbs, DE

Cleveland Gary, RB
Steve Walsh, QB
Bill Hawkins DE

Here are arguably the best players Jimmy Johnson ever produced while coaching the Miami football program.

Greg Mark, Defensive Lineman 1986-1989

  • 34.5 Career Sacks Second in Miami history
  • 15.5 Sacks in 1989 Second for a single season in Miami history
  • 2× National champion (1987, 1989)
  • 1989 Consensus All-American
  • National champion DL Coach (2001)

Mark was one of the first players in Johnson’s first recruiting class. As a senior in 1989, Mark had the second-highest single-season sack total in Miami history with 15.5 Mark finished his Miami career with 34.5 sacks, also second all-time in Miami history. Only Danny Stubbs had more in a single season and a career in Miami history.

Mark was a consensus first-team All-American in 1989 and was selected for the Hula Bowl and East-West Shrine Game after his senior season. In his four seasons, Mark participated in a New Year’s Day Bowl game every year. Miami won National Championships in 1987 and 1989 with Mark as a key player.

The Miami Football team was 45-3 in the four seasons that Mark was on the active roster. Mark finished his Miami career with 253 tackles, 95 quarterback pressures, and 34.5 sacks in 35 starts. Mark returned to Miami in 1992 as a graduate assistant coach. Utah State hired Mark as its defensive line coach in 1995.

Following one season at Utah State, Mark returned to Miami as the DL coach from 1996 through 2005. Mark coached three of the top 10 sack leaders in Miami history and five of the top 10 for a single season in getting after the quarterback. Mark could arguably be in the Miami Sports Hall of Fame as a coach and player.