A Gamer's Goodbye
Rusty Medearis, Miami's sixth-year senior defensive end, retired last week. Though he had reclaimed his starting spot this season after being sidelined for nearly two years with a severe injury to his left knee, Medearis said he came to the decision because of chronic pain. His injury—which occurred when an Arizona lineman fell on his knee in September 1992—was so catastrophic that a doctor warned him that another similar blow could cause his leg to have to be amputated.
It's also true that Medearis was not performing up to the high standard he set before the injury—very few able-bodied linemen could. Since 1989 he played in 27 games and had 22 sacks. Last month Medearis, who hails from Ozark, Mo., reminisced about one of his first practices in Coral Gables: "I became so discouraged that I went to a corner of the field and started bawling. Finally I said to myself, I'm going to make it so that Miami feels it absolutely needs me on the field in order to win." With Medearis in the lineup the Hurricanes were 25-2.
Last Thursday, secure in the knowledge that he had met the challenge of returning to the team, he said goodbye. At dusk on Friday he climbed aboard his black Honda motorcycle in search of a few days at the beach and rode off into the sunset. Medearis left the game the way he played it: on his own terms.
Before he was a Badger, he wore a badge. Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez spent his first two years after graduating from Nebraska as a member of the Lincoln Police Department. "I was involved in the longest high-speed chase in the history of the Lincoln police," says Alvarez. "It was a long time, 45 minutes, and it was high-speed, 110 miles per hour. My partner spun him out at one point. We thought we had the fugitive blocked in a gas station, but he came out. We even shot out his tires, but he kept on going."
And so it was that Alvarez could easily understand the frustration his defense felt last Saturday night at Folsom Field in Boulder. Colorado, fueled by quarterback Kordell Stewart's 301 yards of total offense, ran away from the Badgers 55-17, turning what was to be a tight Top 10 battle into Boulder-dash. "With this offense," said Stewart afterward, "if everyone's doing what he's supposed to do, I don't think anybody can stop this team."
Wisconsin certainly couldn't, but give the Badgers time; the Buffaloes have a few years' head start on them in turning a program around. Like Colorado coach Bill McCartney, Alvarez inherited a team, in 1990, that had had fewer than seven wins over the previous three years. Four seasons later Wisconsin was 10-1-1 and the Rose Bowl champion.
In the meantime, Colorado had been fairly quiet—if a 36-9-4 record over four seasons can be considered quiet—since McCartney guided it to a share of the national title in 1990. But the Buffaloes are making big noise again, and Stewart, a 6'3" senior from Marrero, La., has been the brassiest performer of them all. A gifted runner, Stewart also has far too much passing touch to wear the label "option quarterback." And the new coach of quarterbacks and receivers in Boulder, 33-year-old Rick Neuheisel, a former UCLA quarterback, has done much to unleash Stewart's talents.
Neuheisel, who as a volunteer coach at his alma mater did a fair job of molding Troy Aikman when Aikman was the Bruin quarterback, has also improved Stewart's game preparation. For example, at Neuheisel's urging, Stewart buries his head in a towel while sitting in the locker room before every game. "That's so he can concentrate on what he's about to do," says Neuheisel. "We don't need him to be leading pregame cheers."