The sharpest snapshot of Gregg Rakoczy's playing days at the University of Miami — the one his children literally freeze-framed on the TV screen — comes midway through the ESPN 30-for-30 documentary The U.
There's Rakoczy on the sideline, flashing the No. 1 sign with his index finger, his smile revealing both his pride in the Hurricanes' swaggering success as well as the absence of a front tooth.
"My kids loved that," Rakoczy said.
Anybody who followed Rakoczy's career from Shawnee to Miami to the NFL should relish that moment as well. It summed up how a kid from Medford Lakes who played on one winning team in high school could come to flourish in one of the most successful and controversial college football programs of all time.
Rakoczy, who will be inducted into Shawnee's athletic Hall of Fame on Friday, went to Miami for the weather, stayed for the national championship-caliber football and followed up his college career with a six-year stint as an offensive lineman in the NFL.
"It just brings back a lot of memories," Rakoczy said of joining the Renegades' Hall of Fame. "I had so many great friends, great teammates and coaches."
Miami won four national titles between 1983 and 1991. Beyond that, the Hurricanes changed the atmosphere around the sport, bringing a brash exuberance — as well as an electrifying playing style — to the game and becoming a symbol of the emergence of an urban, hip-hop culture that soon would land center square in American society.
Rakoczy found himself right at home in Coral Gables, winning a national championship as a freshman — when Miami beat a Nebraska team that featured fellow former South Jersey stars Mike Rozier and Irving Fryar in an epic 1984 Orange Bowl — and serving as a cornerstone of the program after Jimmy Johnson replaced Howard Schnellenberger and brazenly took the team's Bad Boy image to another level.
Rakoczy's only winning football season at Shawnee came in his senior year in 1982, when the Renegades went 6-3 but didn't qualify for the state tournament. In four seasons at Miami, his teams went 40-9 and appeared in two Fiesta Bowls, a Sugar Bowl and that legendary Orange Bowl, when he was as freshman blocker on the field-goal and extra-point squads during the course of the Hurricanes' 31-30 victory.
"We had that swagger," Rakoczy said of his days in Miami. "We just didn't think we could lose. That was our attitude.
"But what we did was work so hard. We worked so hard in practice and so hard in meetings and in the film room. We lived, ate and slept football."
Rakoczy helped recruit Pennsauken stars Greg Mark and Jason Hicks to Miami. And Rakoczy had pitched practice battles with a future Eagles star defensive tackle, the late great Jerome Brown.
"Practicing against that guy is the reason I was able to play in the NFL," Rakoczy said of the irrepressible Brown.
Rakoczy was picked 32nd overall in the second round of the 1987 NFL draft by Cleveland. He played four seasons with the Browns — nearly making the Super Bowl as a rookie as Cleveland lost to Denver in the AFC championship game when running back Earnest Byner lost a fumble at the 1-yard line with 1 minute, 12 seconds on the clock — and two seasons with the New England Patriots.
"Just a great experience, to play for that long at the highest level," Rakoczy said of his NFL career.
During his Shawnee days, Rakoczy hoped to play for Penn State. He twice attended the Nittany Lions' summer camps.
But his dream school never offered him a scholarship. After his senior season, he took a recruiting visit to Miami.
"He really went down to Miami on a whim," said current Shawnee coach Tim Gushue, then a Renegades assistant.
Rakoczy landed amid the palm trees and sea breezes. It might have been 80 degrees.
"You go there in January and you're walking around campus in shorts," said Rakoczy, 53, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla. "Then you go back to Jersey, and you have to wear a long coat."
Rakoczy and his late wife, Suzanne, had four kids, two boys and two girls. They are adults now. But they were the ones who loved to pause the DVD during that documentary just as their burly dad was on the screen with his finger in the air and that smile on his face.
Miami wasn't just flash and dash in those unforgettable days. The Hurricanes weren't just Johnson and Vinny Testaverde, Brown and Michael Irvin, Alonzo Highsmith and Benny Blades.
They also had a tooth-short tough guy from South Jersey.
Induction: Friday, Sept. 28, at 5 p.m. in the school cafeteria.
Pregame ceremony: The honorees will be announced before kickoff of Shawnee's home football game against Moorestown at 7 p.m.