Honoring Hurricane Excellence

Honoring Hurricane Excellence

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Even as a child, Jalen Rivers knew the value of helping others.

As a youngster growing up in Jacksonville, his parents instilled in him the importance of being an active part of his community and of reaching out to those in need. As he grew older – and began playing football – they reminded Rivers of his responsibility to set an example and be a role model to some of the youngsters around him.

They’re lessons that Rivers – now one of the veteran anchors of Miami’s offensive line – hasn’t forgotten.

On Sunday, Rivers was recognized for his contributions in the community, his excellence in the classroom and his efforts on the football field as the winner of Miami’s Ibis Award, which was presented at the athletic department’s second annual Hurricane Honors awards ceremony.

A fifth-year redshirt junior who has already earned his bachelor’s degree in sports administration and is a two-time All-ACC Academic honoree, Rivers also earned the male Scholar-Athlete Award, prompting cheers from not only his teammates who were in attendance, but from all the Hurricanes student-athletes that filled the Newman Alumni Center on campus for the event.

“This means a lot. A lot of times, players go to specific programs just to focus on football, but me, I knew it was bigger than that. I knew it was bigger than just football,” said Rivers, who has served as a pen pal and a youth football coach during his time at Miami and is also a member of the department’s Black Student-Athlete Alliance. “I knew I needed to get my academics right to play football. And with football comes a lot of responsibility, too. That includes giving back to the community and I wanted to do that as well. The youth look up to us, so I’ve made sure to touch on all areas, like the community, football, my schoolwork, all of that. … My parents raised me like that, so I appreciate them. I appreciate my coaches and everyone that supports me.”

Said Shirelle Jackson, Miami’s Executive Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development, “To have a young man of his stature, to have a young man of this athletic ability, his work ethic in the classroom, his leadership in the locker room … in all of those spaces, he’s humble. He has all of these accolades, but what stands out the most is his kind heart and his humility. He comes from an incredible family, so the leadership and humility he’s brought not only to our football locker room, but to all of our student-athletes is wonderful. He truly puts the ‘student’ in student-athlete.”

Rivers was one of 19 student-athletes honored at Sunday’s event, including track and field’s Jalen Gordon and soccer’s Skylah Klein, who were named the Most Engaged Hurricanes and baseball’s Myles Caba and track and field’s Christina Warren, who earned Leadership Awards for their work with the Hurricane Student-Athlete Leadership Academy and the HER (Honor. Empower.Rise.) Leadership Academy, respectively.

Six student-athletes – cross country’s Elle Mezzio, rowing’s Katherine Aguero, football’s Michael Redding III and Jaden Harris, track and field’s Robert Joseph and soccer’s Hannah Dawbarn – earned recognition as the ACC’s Top Six for Service, while Redding and head baseball coach J.D. Arteaga were also recognized for recently being inducted into the University’s Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor attained at the University of Miami.

Several student-athletes were also recognized for their athletic efforts, including defensive lineman Rueben Bain, Jr., who was named the Best Male Newcomer and volleyball’s Grace Lopez, who was named the Best Female Newcomer.

Sara Byrne – who has rewritten the Miami record book, has twice been named the ACC Golfer of the Month and who last year, qualified for a spot in the NCAA Golf Championships – was named the Best Female Student-Athlete, while Russell Robinson, who won the triple jump indoor national championship this year and has broken a series of Miami records himself, was named the Best Male Student-Athlete.

“This was insane. I literally was not expecting this at all. I was shaking as I was walking up to the stage,” Byrne said. “I could not believe my name was called because there are so many special student-athletes here that do so much all the time. To hear my name called was insane. … It’s so special, knowing all of us had the opportunity to come together tonight. We’re coming out of here with special memories, not just the best times on the course or the court or whatever, but in moments like these, which bring us together. That’s pretty special.”

The ceremony also spotlighted two athletic department staff members – assistant track and field coach JJ Hunter and football operations coordinator Jimmy Hunter – as winners of the Unsung Hero Awards. Both were nominated by Miami’s student-athletes.

“This is such a special thing to be able to do,” said Vice President/Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich of the event. “When I got here, we didn’t have this. It was something I’d seen at other universities, and it’s really important. When we sat down to talk about it as a senior leadership team, everyone said, ‘We can do this, we can pull this together so we can have our student-athletes come in one night and have a wonderful event.’ I just want to thank the staff. They’ve done a phenomenal job of making sure our student-athletes are recognized in a way that is befitting the great work they do as representatives of the University.”

Said Jackson, “I think it’s so important to recognize our student-athletes as total individuals and to be able to take a moment and recognize their success beyond the the athletic realm. It’s important for them … To see people come up and be honored for the work in the community, the work in the classroom, and the engagement at a conference level, we’re all just really, really proud of them. Because of them, we can have a night like this. That’s what makes it so wonderful.”

2024 Hurricane Honors Award Winners

Hurricane Leadership Academy Award
Myles Caba, Baseball

HER (Honor. Empower. Rise) Leadership Academy Award
Christina Warren, Track & Field

Rising Star Award
Brian Walters, Baseball
Hallie Salas, Soccer

Most Engaged Hurricane Award
Jalen Gordon, Track & Field
Skylah Klein, Soccer

ACC Top Six for Service
Elle Mezzio, Cross Country
Kat Aguero, Rowing
Mike Redding III, Football
Robert Joseph, Track & Field
Hannah Dawbarn, Soccer
Jaden Harris, Football

Best Male Newcomer
Rueben Bain, Jr., Football

Best Female Newcomer
Grace Lopez, Volleyball

Outstanding Community Service Award
Kam Kinchens, Football

Outstanding Community Service Team Award

Unsung Hero Award
Jimmy Hunter, Football
JJ Hunter, Track & Field

Scholar-Athlete Award
Jalen Rivers, Football
Sara Byrne, Golf

Iron Arrow Recognition
Mike Redding III, Football
J.D. Arteaga, Baseball

Comeback Performance of the Year
Baseball, 16-12 Win over Virginia on March 9

Comeback Student-Athletes of the Year
Myles Caba, Baseball
Caroline Hanlon, Rowing

Best Female Student-Athlete
Sara Byrne, Golf

Best Male Student-Athlete
Russell Robinson, Track & Field

Ibis Award
Jalen Rivers, Football