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Catching Up With...

Tammy McPhee and Dennis Keller, January 11, 1988

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Posted: Tuesday January 05, 1999 06:30 PM

  John Biever
Imagine being frozen in time with a girlfriend or a boyfriend from 11 years ago -- frozen in a passionate embrace, forever. "Dennis and I will always be linked to each other," says Tammy McPhee. "Probably until we die." Adds Dennis Keller, "People remember us for that kiss, and it was so short."

Short but photogenic. On Jan. 1, 1988, moments after Miami had beaten Oklahoma 20-14 in the Orange Bowl to win the Hurricanes' second national championship, Keller, a seldom-used sophomore tight end, grabbed his girlfriend, McPhee, a junior cheerleader, pulled her close and planted a triumphant smooch on her lips. The shot, which graced SI's cover the following week, as well as the front page of the next day's Miami Herald, has an Alfred Eisenstaedt feel to it.

"I remember when I found out about the picture," says Keller, 31. "I had a really bad shoulder and hadn't done much in the game besides block on a couple of plays from scrimmage and play on special teams. I thought, How the hell did I get on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED?"

Al Tielemmans 
Adds McPhee, 31, "An anchor from a local TV station called up and asked how it felt to be on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. I dropped the phone and started screaming."

Keller was a member of coach Jimmy Johnson's first Miami recruiting class, but in the opening week of practice, he tore ligaments in his left shoulder and was redshirted. On that championship team of the 1987 season, which featured Melvin Bratton, Michael Irvin and Steve Walsh, he was never more than a gap-filler. As for McPhee, well, how many cheerleaders land on the cover of SI?

Keller, from Miami, and McPhee, from Fort Lauderdale, met in college when they were introduced by a mutual friend and, helped along by traveling together to road games, dated for 21Ú2 years. It was, says Keller, "one of the most special relationships I've had." They were an Everybody's All-American couple -- he the brawny gridder, she the petite cheerleader. "We had a lot of fun together," McPhee says, "but it was kind of hard. He wanted to settle down. I wanted to explore the West Coast. I was career oriented. If we were in the same town, maybe we'd still be together."

  Robert Beck
They're not. Keller, the son of veteran NFL official Tom Keller, lives in Arnold, Md., outside Annapolis, and works as a district manager for Bacardi. McPhee lives in San Diego, where she was a Chargers cheerleader for two years before becoming director of the squad.

Keller and McPhee, who are both still single, keep in touch but only by phone. They haven't seen each other in six years. "But that's O.K.," says McPhee. "I can always look at the cover."       -- Jeff Pearlman

Issue date: January 11, 1999

 
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