Movie Review: Talking Miami football with the independent film ‘The U: Reloaded’

A new movie about the Miami Hurricanes is out

A new movie about the Miami Hurricanes is out

When you ask college football fans who the greatest team in the history of the sport is, the answer almost universally is, ‘The 2001 Miami Hurricanes.’

(Editor’s disclaimer: I know I believe that. I am writing a long-form feature on the team for FoxSports.com which will run later this month)

So what if I told you a new documentary was coming out about the team, made by players of the team, featuring never-before-seen home videos from that season? Is that something that might interest you?

I’m guessing it is.

Well college football fans, go ahead and pick up your jaws off the ground, because it’s not only happening, the movie is about to hit theaters…today!

On Wednesday, the red carpet premiere of ‘The U Reloaded: Rise for Five’ will take place, a documentary put together by former Hurricanes fullback Najeh Davenport and the editor of ProCanes.com, Platon (Alex) Alexandrakis. Joaquin Gonzalez, an offensive tackle who was captain of the 2001 team, also helped with elements of the movie as well.

The premise of the movie is simple: Through interviews with the program’s key players (we’re talking Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne etc.), and footage straight from the locker room taken by Gonzalez and other players during the 2000 and 2001 season, Davenport and Alexandrakis tell the story of Miami’s rise from NCAA sanction-riddled afterthought, to National Champions in 2001.

The movie has been five years in the making (the first interview was done in 2009). And the concept started innocently enough.

“I’ve always been in the film-making business,” Davenport said. “When I began my second career (after retiring from the NFL), I needed a story that I knew. My first thought was the running backs our room (at Miami), how we competed.”

For Davenport, the concept makes sense. During his time at Miami he played with some of the best backs, not just in college football history, but in NFL history as well. Originally, the movie was titled ‘The Tale of Five’ with those five backs being Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore and Davenport himself.

A chance encounter with Alexandrakis, got one of UM’s biggest fans involved in the project too.

“I was always looking for interviews with guys for my website, and I got Najeh’s contact information,” Alexandrakis said. “When we were done with the interview he said ‘You know, this is the first time I’ve done an interview where the person interviewing me knows more about my time at Miami than I do.’”

From there, a friendship was born, and Davenport asked him to help out with the documentary. And a short time after that, the entire arc of the documentary changed as well. Rather than focusing on just the running backs, Davenport decided, why not focus on the entire program?

“We had started shooting, then ‘The U’ aired,” Davenport said, referring to the ESPN documentary about the rise of the program in the 1980’s. “It was a good documentary but I was thinking ‘We weren’t like that.’”

As Davenport explained (and as is chronicled in the article I’m publishing on Fox Sports in a few weeks), after sanctions ravaged the program in 1995, ‘The U’ of old died with it. When Butch Davis arrived, the program could no longer be about flash and swagger; ultimately with such a depleted roster (the school handed out just 12 scholarships in 1996 and 13 in 1997, the year Davenport and Gonzalez arrived) Miami had to take on a different attitude.

It was an attitude of hard work. Of quiet confident. Of football, all the time.

And it was from that attitude, a championship was eventually born. It is also what the documentary is based on, showing a different side of Miami, and a never-before-seen look at the teams of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. It ends, with the team taking home the 2001 BCS Championship.

So with the premise of the movie locked up, next came the hard part: Tracking down all of Davenport’s ex-teammates and coaches. With many of them still in the NFL when shooting began, Davenport and Alexandrakis had the added challenge of flying all over the country to track them down.

For first-time filmmakers, with no staff other than each other, that was no easy task for the pair.

“It was just two people,” Alexandrakis said. “We did the lighting, we did the sound, we did the questioning, we set up, we broke down, we did everything. You do what you have do.”

But once the interviews began, they didn’t stop. Davenport spoke with a number of the biggest names in Hurricanes football at the time, including players who came in the program with him in 1997 like Reed, Wayne and Santana Moss, not to mention, Jonathan Vilma, Jeremy Shockey and others. Also, to show just how the attitude within the program changed, and how the work ethic improved during the transition from Coach Dennis Erickson to Butch Davis, Davenport and Alexandrakis interviewed the full scope of players, starting with guys who were juniors and seniors when Davenport was a freshman in 1997, straight through others like Antrel Rolle, who was a freshman when he was a senior in 2001.

All and all, this is the most complete story, ever told about Miami’s 2001 championship team.

If you don’t believe me, ask one of the guys who was interviewed for the movie, Joaquin Gonzalez, who was a team captain during the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

“To be honest, I just thought it was going to be this small, short film,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t understand the scope of it, until I got interviewed and then started talking to them. Then when I saw the first teaser I started getting involved.”

Gonzalez used his relationships across the Miami business world to help create publicity for the movie, but may have even provided a more crucial element: Home video. Lots and lots of it. You see, Gonzalez’s parents had given him a camcorder early on in his college career, and he spent a good chunk of the rest of the time documenting everything. He never thought anyone besides his family would ever see the footage, but when Davenport started putting the movie together, he gladly turned it over.

And it was thanks to the video provided by Gonzalez and a few other ex-Canes, fans will get a never-before-seen look at exactly what it was like in Miami’s locker room, both during the rise of the program, and into its championship year of 2001.

Its access that simply provided by any other outlet, and will show a side of college football that many might not believe really existed.

“It’s very raw footage,” Gonzalez said. “It’s unedited. It’s pretty vivid.”

(If the trailers released online are any indication, it certainly is).

It also left the filmmakers with some tough decisions. With so many guys who went on to be stars, all with such unique stories, it led to an interesting dilemma.

How do you fit all the good information into one, 90 minute documentary?

“I think the really tough part is picking what stories to tell and how much to tell,” Alexandrakis said. “We had enough for a five-hour documentary, but we had to cut a lot to keep it at an hour and a half.”

It also, in hindsight, made the guys on the team appreciate just how special that era of Miami football really is.

“I’m not amazed that Ed Reed made it to the NFL, because to me, he’s just Ed,” Gonzalez said. “But where I do get that sentiment is outside people that I don’t know, they kind of make me re-live, and I start telling stories. I start forgetting all these guys, and they start listing, 30, 35 names.”

It also means, poor Gonzalez never knows exactly how to answer his toughest question.

“They ask you ‘Who was the best player?’ And I’m like ‘Shit, I don’t know,” he said.

Regardless, after five hard years of work, re-living one of the greatest eras of Miami football history, the final product is ready to be revealed to the world.

I’ll be honest, I can’t believe it,” Alexandrakis said. “I won’t still believe it until I see it at the premiere.”

For more information on ‘The U Reloaded’ click here

 

The Red Carpet Premier of The U Reloaded: Rise For Five at the Wynwood O Cinema 90 NW 29st Miami, Florida 33127 on Wednesday August 27, 2014 at 9pm. Stars of the Documentary along with other Hurricane greats will be present.   Tickets for sale here 

 

Additionally a Hurricane Fan Event where we will show the Documentary in its entirety and also have a Q&A. This event will be held on September 1, 2014 at Brother Jimmy’s South Miami 5701 Sunset Drive Miami, FL 33142 at 4:30pm.  Stay after and watch the Canes take on Louisville!  Tickets for sale here

 

Also the teasers are here: http://www.theureloaded.com/page2/trailer.html#

 

People can pre-order DVD here: http://www.theureloaded.com/store.html

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.

Quantcast