Duke’s Jeremy Cash looking forward to his South Florida return

Duke safety Jeremy Cash, one of the team’s co-captains, grew up a Michigan fan. Duke will play at Miami on Saturday, the first time Cash has played in South Florida since high school.
Duke safety Jeremy Cash, one of the team’s co-captains, grew up a Michigan fan. Duke will play at Miami on Saturday, the first time Cash has played in South Florida since high school. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Jeremy Cash has beat his own drum since arriving at Duke, so it should come as no surprise that he did that growing up in South Florida, too.

Case in point: in an area where it’s second nature for youth football players flash the “U” sign with their hands, Cash was a Michigan fan.

“Charles Woodson was always one of my favorite players, so I wanted to aspire to be a great player like he was,” Cash said. “And I’ve done that to an extent, I believe.”

That last line, the bravado or swag, is classic Cash, and it’s classic South Florida. Cash lists his hometown of Miami, and he attended nearby Plantation High in Broward County, near Fort Lauderdale.

He was 6 when Charles Woodson won the 1997 Heisman Trophy – the most recent defensive player to do so – and led the Wolverines to the national championship. Cash’s fandom was undeterred when, four years later, the Miami Hurricanes assembled one of the greatest college football teams ever and won their own national championship. Ed Reed and Sean Taylor didn’t have the same impact as Woodson on young Cash’s mind.

Of course, Cash added another wrinkle to the story when he reminded reporters that the young Michigan fan grew up to commit to Ohio State. Again: he beats his own drum.

“I wanted to leave the state and set out on my own,” Cash said.

The Hurricanes were the first team to offer Cash in high school. Miami wasn’t exactly on stable ground, though – coach Randy Shannon would be fired after the 2010 season, Cash’s senior year, and booster Nevin Shapiro had already began talking publicly about his plans to expose NCAA violations committed by the program.

“They had a whole slew of issues going on at the time, and I didn’t think that it was the best fit for me to be a part of that,” Cash said.

Cash made his college decision early, committing to Ohio State in the spring of his junior year. That decision was based in large part on his comfort level with then-coach Jim Tressel. Cash bypassed his last semester in high school to enroll at Ohio State early, in January 2011, in hopes of earning early playing time. But Tressel was dismissed on May 30, before Cash ever played a down.

Cash wasn’t the only Plantation player to make the trek up north – his teammate Ryan Shazier, now a linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, came with him. The two decided independently, though – Shazier had committed to Florida, but backed off when Urban Meyer stepped down.

Meyer didn’t offer Cash out of high school – the Gators were the only major Florida school not to offer – so, when Meyer was hired to lead the Buckeyes, Cash knew he was leaving.

Fast forward to this week, and Cash, now a team captain and 6-foot-2, 205-pound All-ACC safety, is excited for his homecoming. It will be the first time he has played in South Florida since high school, and he is scrambling to find tickets for all his family and friends. “I waited until the last minute, unfortunately,” he said of his quest to collect tickets from his teammates.

Still, Cash knows this is a business trip, one that will go a long way toward determining Duke’s fate in the ACC’s Coastal Division.

There will be time to see his mom, Alisha Sneed, and he probably will find a moment to acknowledge Miami’s middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, a good friend from his high school days. But most of his time and mental energy will be devoted to football, building on the progress he has already made this year.

“In the coaching business, sometimes friends that are somewhere else watch us on TV,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “They’ll text me, ‘Hey, good win,’ or whatever, and, it’s funny, coaches always comment about (No.) 16. And the reason that a guy will show up on television is because he is making plays.”

That South Florida swag isn’t just talk.

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