Kevin Brinkworth

The U is the highest rated documentary in ESPN history

Jared Campbell and Darryl Sharpton

ESPN Films wrapped up the fall slate of the critically-acclaimed "30 for 30" film project with Billy Corben's The U, Saturday night immediately following the Heisman Trophy presentation, and earned a 1.8 rating. That represents an average of 1.8 million homes (2.368 M viewers, P2+) and is ESPN's highest-rated documentary of all time (The Greatest Game Ever aired December 13, 2008, and earned a 1.4 rating - 1.369 million households, 1.811 M viewers). For the "30 for 30" series Fall slate overall, the seven films earned an average 1.0 rating (1,007,000 homes, 1,258,000 viewers).

Click here to read our review of “The U” Documentary.

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Photos From "The U" Premier

Lamar Miller, Mike James and AJ Highsmith

Click here to read our review of “The U” Documentary.

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Photos From "The U" Premier

Tolbert Bain, Lamar Miller, Mike James, AJ Highsmith and Brian Blades

Click here to read our review of “The U” Documentary.

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Photos From "The U" Premier

Click here to read our review of “The U” Documentary.

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Photos From "The U" Premier

Bennie Blades, Evan Rosenfeld (rakontur), Brian Blades and Tolbert Bain

K.C. Jones and Kevin Brinkworth

Tolbert Bain, Lamar Miller, Mike James, AJ Highsmith and Brian Blades

Brett Perriman, John Routh and Don Soldinger

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Tracking proCanes - Kevin Brinkworth - Part II

Part II: Kevin’s thoughts on the current state of the program, favorite things, word associations and more! Click here to read Part I

pC: Alright, let’s now talk about your playing days. At what age did you start playing football, and did you play any other sports?
KB: I started playing football when I was 7 yrs old and played every year throughout high school. I also wrestled.

pC: What was your favorite team growing up?
KB: I’ve always been more of a college than pro-football fan, even though, just like all kids my generation, I loved the Dallas Cowboys.

pC: Who was your favorite player growing up and why?
KB: My favorite player growing up was Danny White, of the Dallas Cowboys. He was the QB and the punter. He was the man! 

pC: What position did you play growing up?
KB: I always played linebacker and then moved to fullback in high school.

pC: Were you a Hurricane Fan growing up?
KB: Of course I was a Hurricane fan! Without a doubt, they were my favorite college football team, actually, my favorite team overall. I always liked Notre Dame until Miami beat the snot out of them Nov. 30, 1985 Miami 58 - Notre Dame 7. I went to the game with my father and do you wanna laugh?  I wore Notre Dame boxer shorts to the game with UM shorts over the top. Needless to say, I never took off my pants. 

I was always a huge fan of George Mira Jr. First off, because he was the toughest white undersized middle linebacker in college football at the time, and he created a legacy by following in his fathers footsteps and becoming an All-American at the University of Miami.

pC: Who recruited you out of High School?  KB: There were many – based upon my wrestling and football ability combined, I had my choice of school nationwide, mostly in the northeast. 

pC: What coach at Miami recruited you out of high school?
KB: Art Kehoe found me. He was really impressed with my wrestling skills. I won a few state titles, a national, and a world title before going to Miami. 

pC: A world title?
KB: Yeah, 16 an under world title. I beat a guy from Italy that looked about 22. He had a beard.

pC: So, you're a Cane but you almost went to....
KB: I’m a Cane, but I almost went to Iowa to win national titles in wrestling versus football.

pC: What was the toughest thing about playing at the U?
KB: The toughest thing about playing the University of Miami was adjusting to the speed of the game.  I played in the Northeast where strength was emphasized more than speed.

pC: What's your favorite memory of your time at Miami?
KB: My favorite memory at Miami is the camaraderie of being around all these great guys that were my friends and we were just all focused on the same goal. It was just like being in the ultimate fraternity. I miss the friendships, the trust. I miss always having someone at my side at all times

pC: What games stand out from your days at the U?
KB: FSU, 91’, wide right. I red-shirted that year but drove up to Tallahassee on Friday night and suited up for the game. I’ll never forget the Doak Campbell tomahawk chant and the utter silence at the end of the game. My first start against UCLA was right up there too, but it ended in injury, so that silenced my career.

pC: Which former teammate was the toughest to go up against in practice?
KB: Ray Lewis . He never took a play off.  He thrived on catching you “slippin” as we would say at the U.

pC: Who do you think was the best player at Miami while you were there?
KB: K.C. Jones (pictured to the right). He took football to a whole new level, whether it was his heated battles with Warren Sapp, or ripping Ray Lewis’ helmet off.  K.C. Jones was by far the toughest and most skilled football player I’ve ever met in life.

pC: Who was your best friend while playing?
KB: (laughs) K.C. Jones. I knew it was better to be his friend, than his enemy, but I really hung out with everyone.  I was one of the few players that didn’t see color.  I hung out with Warren Sapp one night, K.C. Jones another night, and Ray Lewis the next.  Everyone was my friend at UM. I even hung out with non-descript players and even walk-ons.  I’m still friends with guys like Jason Budroni and Larry Luttrell.  Geez, I couldn’t run my business without Larry Luttrell’s legal advice.

pC: What other former teammates do you keep in touch with?
KB: As I just said, I couldn’t run my business without Larry, KC Jones is my financial advisor.  I was just in Ryan Clement’s wedding, and yesterday I talked to Warren Sapp.  I went to Jamaica with Rohan Marley last year, and I haven’t missed a former player’s reunion since we started it back in 02’.  If you were to ask any of the former players who is a conduit to the former players database, I’d rank right up there in the top 3.  I love the U and I consider all of my former teammates my brothers and I always stay in contact with family. 

pC: Any coaches you still talk to?
KB: Of course.  I religiously stay in contact with Don Soldinger, Mario Cristobol, Art Kehoe, and Coach Shannon.  A lot of people don’t know, but my first year at UM was also Randy’s.  We’ve known each other for almost 20 years.

pC: You won a National Championships, talk about that experience.
KB: That was amazing.  It happened in my first year at UM – imagine going from an undefeated high school team to an undefeated college team and winning a national title.  I’m probably one of the luckiest college football players around.  And don’t forget, we went 11-0 and played for the National title in the Sugar Bowl in 92’ as well.  During that 3 year period of my life, I only experienced losing once!

pC: Talk about Dennis Erickson as a Coach. We have heard many stories about his lack of discipline, among other things.
KB: Coach Erikson was Coach Erikson. You’ve heard the stories, and some are just that, stories.  Coach Erikson prided himself on being a player’s coach. He let players play and be themselves.  You’re right, he wasn’t much of a disciplinarian, but you try keeping Warren Sapp, Rohan Marley, and James Stewart in 7 nights a week (chuckles). As far as I’m concerned, Dennis Erikson gave me my opportunity to play at the UM and I will forever be grateful for that.  At the end of the day, he couldn’t  be that bad, he did win 2 National Championships.

pC: Talk about the whole U is Family and the tight bonds players make and keep.
KB: As I said before, the U is a family, and we all stay in touch.  Just this past year, 250 players showed up at our player’s reunion.  Like I said, there isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t talk to one of our former players regarding business or life in general.

pC: Do you go back often? When was the last time you went back? You go to any games?  KB: Come on Dude, you know I’m at the U twice a week.  I’ve only been to one game at Dolphin Stadium, but that’s because I celebrated the birth of my son, Kevin Jr., in September of last year and we’re stationed back home in Buffalo, NY.  Prior to that, I didn’t miss a home game for the previous 3 seasons.  If you wanted to find me on any given college football Saturday, I was on the sidelines at the Orange Bowl with my video camera.

pC: What did your teammates call you? Did you have a nickname?
KB: My nickname was Brink, but somehow, that turned into Stink, so I guess in a way, I’ll always be known as Stinky.  Not because of my hygiene, though, but because of my prankster personality.

pC: In a road game, whose opposing fans rivaled the West End Zone?
KB: FSU was always loud and Penn State wasn’t quiet either. Nothing compared to the Carrier Dome (Syracuse University) on sold out road games.  

pC: You were part of that last second win at Syracuse where they driving down the field and your buddy Rohan stopped them just short. What do you remember from that game? 
KB: I remember it like yesterday. I had four tackles on kickoffs. I ran the “the missle” Rocket Ismail’s brother down from behind.

pC: What one person was the most influential in the development of your game?
KB: Don Soldinger, hands down.  He helped me realize my true potential by forcing me to discipline myself.  He taught me there are no short-cuts in life and the only way to be a true success is to do every little thing right.  That meant never missing work-outs, never missing class, putting in extra film time, and basically, holding yourself accountable to your teammates, your family.  That was paramount in Don Soldinger’s eyes.

pC: What do you think about the last couple of years and the current state of Hurricane football?
KB: It’s been a bummer, but people would have said the same thing about USC in the 80’s.  Don’t worry, we will be back on top before you know it.  And all of sudden everyone will love the Canes’ all across the country, all over again.   

pC: What do the 'Canes have to do to become an elite team again?
KB: Like I said before, the little things.  It’s the extra work-outs and literally holding yourself accountable to your teammates, your family, and the former players who have created what is the University of Miami’s legacy. 

pC: Why do you think the program fell off the way it did?
KB: It happens.  College football is cyclical.  One year all of the good players go to USC, the next year they go to Texas. As you have seen recently, all of the good players are coming back to the U.  It’s about recruiting and getting the right players, with the right mindset at the U.  I think Randy Shannon has the right mindset and the right mentality.

pC: What is a misconception people have about the University of Miami?
KB: That we’re a bunch of thugs.  As you can see, some of us produce films, some of us try cases, and some of us dance the Samba in front of 30 million viewers once a week on Dancing with the Stars. We’re a very unique group of individuals, all of us having our own talents, but in the end, we’re all family.  I can’t stress that enough.  Once the U brings this family atmosphere back, not only will we start winning again, the city of Miami as well as the whole country will want to be back in our home.

pC: What do you think about the move to Dolphins stadium?
KB: No comment.  Home will always be where your heart is. We will always live in the Orange Bowl.

pC: Tell us the craziest story from your UM football days that you can remember either with another player or coach on or off the field
KB: My attorney, and former UM player Lawrence Lutrell, has advised me to plead my 5th amendment right to silence on this question.  But I will tell you this, within those 5 years I created friendships that will last a lifetime. If someone told me that I could go back to 1991 and repeat those years I would walk through that time machine in a NY minute. I would give up all the winning we did just to go back and be a part of the team.  

pC: Come on, one story.
KB: Ok there was this one time that K.C. and I took out this top recruit from Texas in 94’. When we met him, he told us he was going to Texas, but he thought he’d come check out Miami to see what it was like down in the sunshine.  K.C. and I didn’t really appreciate that, so we really showed him a good time.  Long story short, after feeding him lobster tails and strip steaks at the Rusty Pelican, we took him to the Grove for a night at the Tavern.  Somewhere around closing time, 3 lobster tails and 2 strip steaks ended up on the floor along with 6 pitchers of warm beer.  The remaining 2 lobster tails, steak, and 2 pitchers of beer, ended up on the Greentree practice field because we made him run 100-yard sprints for embarrassing us in our local establishment.  We dropped him off at the pool at the University Holiday Inn.  He deposited one more lobster tail poolside and I think he regrets ever coming to Miami and wasting our time. We were the U and U don’t disrespect us.  
  pC: Word Associations, Give me the first thing that pops in your head when you read the following:    Randy Shannon: Head coach  Larry Coker: My man  Orange Bowl: Home  Dolphins Stadium: Where?  Sebastian the Ibis: Superman  Dennis Erickson: Wow  Coral Gables: 33146  The Fiesta Bowl: Ouch (’93)  Ohio State: Thieves    pC: Favorite NFL Team?

pC: Favorite NBA Team?
KB: Who? 

pC: Favorite Baseball Team?

pC: Favorite Food?
KB: Pizza 

pC: What Band/Group I would find most of on your iPod?
KB: Bob Marley. I have every album. 

pC: One movie you could watch over and over?
KB: Rebel Music – The Bob Marley Story 

pC: One TV show you cannot miss?
KB: Miami CSI 

pC: What do you do in your spare time?
KB: Work 

pC: Two websites you have to check daily?
KB: proCanes and Google 

We at would like to thank Kevin Brinkworth for being so gracious with his time to do this very insightful interview for our new feature "Tracking proCanes."Click here to check out our past interviews with Leon Searcy, Steve Walsh, Frank Costa and more!

Tracking proCanes - Kevin Brinkworth - Part I is continuing our “Tracking proCanes” feature with former University of Miami linebacker, Kevin Brinkworth. Kevin was a member of the ’91 University of Miami National Championship Team and played at UM from 1991 to 1996. Brinkworth now calls himself a jack of all trades. Since graduating from the University of Miami Kevin has been involved in an array of mixed media ventures. Whether it’s producing exclusive content from the Official NASCAR Members Club, or creating infomercials for the “the slicer and dicer” he has done it all successfully. After a stretch of B movie appearances after graduating from UM with a degree in advertising and marketing, Kevin decided to use his degree behind the camera. In 2001 Kevin opened his own Direct Response studio and started producing print, radio and television advertisements for companies looking to brand their products in an unconventional method; direct to the consumer. Today, the Direct to Consumer Market accounts for over 4 Billion dollars in advertising sales. 

Part I: Kevin’s project of documenting the history of the U and the Orange Bowl.  

pC: So what are you up to now Kevin?
Kevin Brinkworth:  The film [a film that Kevin has been heavily involved with being produced by Rakontur which chronicles the history of University of Miami football and will air on ESPN in the fall] takes up time, but it’s my business that runs my life. I am currently the President of KDAA, Inc. a Direct Response Agency and Big Brand Consulting firm who happily boasts a client list including NASCAR, Bob Marley Music, Inc., and The Thomas Kinkade Company. Recently I just celebrated the birth of my son Kevin Matthew Brinkworth Jr. so I’ve been spending a little more time at home. I’ve been focusing on our client’s online sales and membership acquisition strategies for the last 7 months because it allows me to stay close to home. In 2007 I think I traveled every week. One week I was in Talladega for a NASCAR event and the next week I was in NYC visiting Bob Marley Music. I think I even threw in a few trips to Jamaica. If your interested in reading a bit about our company visit 

pC: So you started working on a film about the last season in the Orange Bowl. Talk about how you came up with the idea and how you went about doing it.
KB: Ever since graduating in ‘96, I knew that someone needed to tell the story about the University of Miami family, and that’s exactly what it is, a family. You hear people talk about former players supporting each other and coming back for reunions and hanging out on the sidelines and it’s true. The camaraderie is like no other. It really is a family and someone needed to tell the story of how close we are.  So, in 2006 I came up with the idea of creating a series about the University of Miami’s football program.  At the time I had friends working at Pilgrim Films (American Choppers, American Casino) and it inspired me to pitch them my story, and that’s just what I did. 

I can remember the meeting vividly as it took place during the filming of American Casino at the Green Valley Ranch Resort (Kevin chuckles). KC Jones was with me and we can even be seen in an American Casino episode sitting around the pool as we discussed the UM series. After chasing licenses and approvals \ from Collegiate Images and the University of Miami, I wrote the first three episodes of what would have been “A Season at the U.” I scheduled meetings and booked conference calls to pitch to ESPN, Spike TV, and the History Channel. None of the networks thought I had the access to get this done so I grabbed my video camera and started taking footage of the University of Miami practices, meetings, games and the day to day life of Miami football players and coaches.  I would especially like to thank Mario Cristobal (now FIU head football coach) for allowing me to follow him around back in 2006 through his rigorous daily schedule as UM’s Offensive Line Coach. So, that’s how it began. 

So, while I’m out there trying to secure funding and a network “green light,” the final season at the Orange Bowl starts sneaking up on us. I figured with my blessings from Collegiate Images and the U, why wait for ESPN or SPIKE TV to give me the green light to create my show. I knew that someone needed to go out and capture a former player’s view of the final season in our home, the Orange Bowl.   So I contacted Tony Hernandez, UM’s Assistant Athletic Director, who in turn got approval from Randy Shannon and I started bringing my video camera to every home game of the final season in the Orange Bowl to capture at that time what I called, the friends, former players, and family footage. So, I grabbed my video camera, put on my Nikes, and attended every 2007 home football game, including tailgating, pregame, halftime and post game interviews. I captured over 100 hours of video including interviews with former players about their most memorable Orange Bowl moments, their favorite times at UM, and their disbelief that an era was coming to an end. 

pC: Talk about how you linked up with Rakontur.
KB: In the Spring of 2008 the University’s Alumni Association contacted me regarding my documentary and published a feature article in our Alumni Digest about the project. Somehow that Alumni Digest ended up in the hands of Rakontur’s Billy Corbin, another UM Graduate and director of Cocaine Cowboys, and he reached out to me regarding licensing my footage for an upcoming documentary they were producing for ESPN on the University of Miami and its championship seasons. You can imagine my surprise! Just one year earlier I’m sending emails to ESPN Original Entertainment about my dream quest to produce a series on the University of Miami and now ESPN’s contracted producers are calling me about my footage, very surreal.

pC: How did the project change with Rakontur’s involvement?
KB: The project hasn’t changed that much, but this is definitely their vision. If you have seen Cocaine Cowboys you may be familiar with the format. Basically, Rakontur and I entered into an agreement where they would have the opportunity to view and license my footage for the upcoming ESPN documentary as well as hired me as a project consultant to act as a liaison between the University of Miami administration and help introduce and coordinate further former player interviews. Considering I had already interviewed over 50 former players, it was a no-brainer for Rakontur to bring me on board.

pC: So did this cooperation change the idea of the film?
KB: It’s a Rakontur deal.  They have a format that works. They pitched it to ESPN and my footage and access to the University was just a bonus.  I came on board to help further their vision of “The U” in any way that I could. 

pC: What would you say is the focus of the film?
KB: The film will focus on the University of Miami’s Championship seasons, mainly between the championship years 1987-1991, but it’s not going to be a highlight reel. It’s going to be an account supported by former players and administration, recaps of how the University of Miami changed the sport in both positive and negative ways, and how a small virtually unknown southern school with an enrollment of 5000 grew to a national phenomenon in less than10 years. UM changed the face of college football on and off the field forever. 

pC: Talk about who you have interviewed? Players? Coaches?
KB: I interviewed over 50 former players including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who I caught off guard at the final game of 2007. He was a bit surprised to see me, especially with a video camera and asking questions about the Orange Bowl, but that quickly changed as he turned the tide on me and went into a story about how it was the first time he had ever been interviewed by a “gay former player and reporter.” It’s really funny and very impromptu.  

Michael Irvin and Steve Walsh gave me one of the most animated interviews to date when at the half-time of the NC State game they reenacted their most memorable Orange Bowl moment for me in front of 50,000 fans. “Walsh drops back, Michael Irvin runs a go off the right side line entering the visitors tunnel…touchdown…Michael Irvin jumps in the stands… UM beats FSU.”  Michael Irvin loves to talk about Michael (chuckles). Some of the most insightful interviews came from some of our former senior players like Ted “the mad stork” Hendricks and George Mira Sr. They really gave great accounts of the University prior to our championship years, which made me appreciate the foundation that they laid for players like me. Coach Howard Schnellenberg, Art Kehoe, Larry Coker, Jimmy Johnson, Mario Cristobol, Don Soldinger all gave wonderful interviews from a coaching perspective, but it really was the down and dirty interviews with guys like Lamar Thomas, Jonathan Harris, Rohan Marley, James Stewart, K.C. Jones, Rich Mercier, and Ryan Clement that take the cake! But don’t worry, we’ve also interviewed Warren Sapp, Russel Maryland, Cortez Kennedy, Greg Mark, Bill Hawkins, Gino Torreta, Alonzo Highsmith, Bernie Kosar, Cleveland Gary and many many more Hurricanes greats. 

pC: Talk about one player interview that really stood out.
KB: I would have to say our interview with Mario Cristobal just a few weeks ago was intense because Rakontur has a specific format which all of the interviews are filmed in. My video is all ‘live’ so it will be peppered throughout the documentary, but the Rakontur interviews are in the studio. Mario is now the Head Coach of the FIU Panthers so he was a bit worried about doing the interview. With all the NCAA rules and rgulations he has to adhere to, imagine he’s giving an interview to the guys who produced “Cocaine Cowboys” (laughs). Mario and I were roommates at UM for two years and have been very close friends ever since graduating so I promised him we would keep the interview on a very professional level. Well, he started off a little “stiff” and administrative but by the end of the 3 hour interview he was as animated as he was during his playing days at UM as an All Big-East Offensive Tackle. He talked about the City of Miami, his Cuban heritage and the pride he felt playing for the U. Don’t forget he had some big shoes to fill because his brother also played at UM. He also went to Columbus High School which I think is partially responsible for the birth of UM Championship seasons. It all started with Alonzo Highsmith and then guys like Matt Britton, Carlos Huerta, Lou [Cristobal] and Mario. The interview was intense and I’d like to thank Mario again because as Billy said, “Dude that was the most intense and insightful interview to date. I just couldn’t stop asking him questions.” Big up’s Mario! 

pC: How will UM be conveyed in the film?
KB: Rakontur will have the final cut, but I know were trying to portray the University in a positive light. ESPN commissioned the documentary and will air it part of a series called “30 for 30,” covering sports events of the past 30 years, which celebrates ESPN's 30th anniversary in 2009. We’re really trying to tell the story about the University of Miami family and how, as a team, a band of brothers, we came together to produce five national titles in a decade and one of the best college football sports programs in history

pC: What stage are you at now?
KB: We’ve just concluded our interviewing process, ending with an amazing interview I coordinated and booked with coach Jimmy Johnson at his home in Islamorada.  Again, I’d like to personally thank coach Johnson for inviting us into his home and giving us one of the best accounts of Miami football we’ve had to date. Hopefully we can put together our timeline within the next few months and get ready for a first cut before the season begins. 

pC: When will it be released?
KB: It will air this December on ESPN immediately following the 2009 Heisman Trophy presentation so don’t be upset if you miss the Heisman presentation, because the real award begins right after. We’re also planning to create a 2-hour feature documentary post ESPN’s airing to submit to film festivals. 

Come back tomorrow and read Part II of our interview with Kevin Brinkworth and see what he has to say about his playing days at the U, Coach Erickson, the current state of the Hurricanes, and more!