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!