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Seasoned Canes: Fans Share Their Stories

Danielle Bradley

One of Danielle Bradley’s fondest memories during her undergraduate career at Florida in the late 1990s came when Steve Spurrier made an appearance as a guest speaker in an elective class.

“I made sure to sit up front that day,” Bradley said with a chuckle.

When it came time for questions, no hand in the classroom shot in the air faster than that of Bradley, who was wearing her favorite Miami Hurricanes attire.

Bradley’s question was regarding Florida’s decision to remove Miami from its football schedule.

“He laughed and gave me some long-winded answer about out-of-conference games and scheduling strategy,” Bradley said. “That still has to be my favorite memory at UF.”

A lifelong Hurricanes fan, Bradley was five years old when she started to watch football with her dad on television at their home in South Florida. Fielding ceaseless questions from his curious daughter, Bradley’s father John brought her to her first game at the Orange Bowl shortly thereafter.

The younger Bradley’s fandom has only intensified since.

“I was a daddy’s girl,” Bradley said. “I’m sure he thought, ‘I’ll answer some questions and she’ll get bored and move on.’ But I never stopped asking questions.”

Bradley’s father eventually purchased season tickets when she was in high school, and even when she attended Florida for college, he made sure to fill her seat with family members and friends.

“For the longest time, we didn’t know what it felt like to leave the Orange Bowl with a loss,” Bradley said. “We were definitely spoiled. When I had the opportunity, I purchased our actual chairbacks from the Orange Bowl, and still have them in my office.”

Bradley and her father rarely tailgated at the Orange Bowl, but the experiences they shared were special. They would often park at Tamiami Park and take a city bus that dropped them off right outside the hallowed grounds of the OB.

“He would hold me tight as I jumped down on my chair during so many Miami / Florida State games,” Bradley said. “He and I sat with about 10,000 of our closest friends during the probation era of the 1990s. We never missed a Canes home game.”

When her father’s health declined after the Hurricanes moved into Hard Rock Stadium, Bradley’s mom, Heidi, took her father’s place on Saturdays.

Heidi wasn’t overly interested at the beginning.

Now?

“She has become the biggest fan,” Bradley said. “Me and my mom have traveled to away games. We went to Texas to watch us play LSU, I’ve taken her to bowl games in Orlando…she loves it.”

Currently, the Bradleys share four tickets, and often she brings her husband, Bruce – another Florida alum who supports his wife’s passion for the Hurricanes.

“He’s out there every Saturday with me,” Bradley said. “I can’t get him to wear UM gear, but he’ll wear orange and green, at least. He’s my closet UM fan even though he’s a Gator.”

Ramon Vega

If you’re driving around San Juan, Puerto Rico and see a car with University of Miami plates and Hurricanes flags flying proudly, there’s a chance you might meet one of the most passionate UM fans on the island.

And though Ramon Vega lives in his homeland of Puerto Rico, make no mistake about it – he’s always thinking about his next trip to Hard Rock Stadium.

Vega graduated from Miami with his undergraduate degree in 2002, and watched Miami win its fifth national championship during his time as a student in Coral Gables.

“The first time I attended a game in the Orange Bowl was for a Penn State game,” Vega said. “That was it…I was hooked for the rest of my life.”

And though he grew up in Puerto Rico and eventually returned, a significant portion of his family calls South Florida home.

“I wasn’t a fan of college football at all before I got to Miami,” Vega said. “My aunt’s husband was a big UM fan who lived in Miami. He was a psycho fan. I started going to the games with him when I was a student, and lived through the best time.”

Vega earned his law degree in Puerto Rico but returned to Miami to work towards his masters of law in 2009.

“I went to all the games when I was back, and I’ve been going to at least one home game a year since 2010,” Vega said. “I’m a season ticket holder, but for the games I don’t go to, I give the tickets to my aunt and her husband, or family members.”

To Vega, the chance to watch the Hurricanes take the field is more than just a casual interest – which is why he has maintained his tickets for so long. His yearly trip to South Florida serves two purposes – reconnecting with the Hurricanes and reconnecting with family.

“My wife, who went to Notre Dame, lets me go by myself. I’ll go to campus, walk through campus, go to AllCanes, visit the Rathskeller…it’s a personal tradition I have,” Vega said. “But I also get to see my cousins, see my extended family. It serves as a bit of a family reunion.”

And though he doesn’t get to see family during the holidays, Vega always counts on his weekend in South Florida – and the annual Hurricanes game he’s in the stands for – as a way to catch up with family.

Oftentimes, Vega’s friends from college will make the trip down for the same game.

“We have the tents, and pack into two or three cars and tailgate at people’s houses two hours before the gate even opens,” Veg said. “Tears come to my eyes when I think about it. The amount of fun we have, the spiritual lift it gives you…it’s hard to describe.”

This year, Vega is planning on making his yearly pilgrimage for the Michigan State game.

“The UM tailgates are just so different. It has that Latin flavor, with the roasted pigs in the caja chinas, the dominoes, the people flying flags proudly,” Vega said. “Miami tailgates are unique. No one can ever tailgate like we do.”

Frank Manteiga

Frank Manteiga only had one choice for college.

Growing up in South Florida and attending Hurricanes football games as a high school student at nearby Christopher Columbus, Manteiga never thought about going elsewhere for college.

“It was the only place I applied to,” he said.

Manteiga, who graduated from Miami in 1986, went away for dental school, but has had tickets ever since he returned in 1990.

He has also had season tickets to Hurricanes baseball and basketball as an avid supporter of Miami Athletics.

“I used to serve on the board of the Hurricane Club for many, many years, and at one point was vice president of the group,” Manteiga said. “We did a lot of fundraisers, golf tournaments, an art auction…it has been a passion of mine for a long time.”

Manteiga, who was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity during his time at Miami, enjoyed going to games with his fraternity brothers as a student.

“We always had a great time, and the way the team played when I was there made it even more special,” he said.

That passion evolved into fundraising efforts for Miami Athletics, resulting in a Rose Bowl ring from UM’s last national championship run for his work on behalf of the department. He calls receiving the ring one of his most special memories.

Now, Manteiga shares his Hurricanes game days with other passionate families.

“We wake up and get the car ready for tailgates,” he said. “We go with three or four families and have a few pop-up tents. There have been times when, if it’s an earlier game, we go, cook breakfast, and then even cook lunch. It’s a whole day event.”

Along with his wife, Susan, son, Christopher, and daughter, Erica, Manteiga made the trip to Phoenix for the infamous 2002 Fiesta Bowl.

“It’s one of my favorite memories,” he said. “Even though we lost to Ohio State, it was an amazing vacation.”

Manteiga’s wife grew up in Concord, Massachusetts and his son and daughter not attend UM for college – opting instead for FGCU and Florida State, respectively.

But make no mistake about it: in the Manteiga household, there’s only one mantra.

“It’s a Canes thing,” he said.