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Chains. Dog collars. Robes. College football teams love their turnover gimmicks  2 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

University of Miami cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph was looking for a spark from his secondary heading into the 2017 season.

In 2016, the Hurricanes forced just eight interceptions, ranking near the bottom of all Division I schools. With a talented roster and high expectations for the season, Rumph’s defensive unit needed a jolt.

So he called A.J. Machado, owner of A.J.’s Jewelry in the Miami area.

Rumph was looking for something to give his players after they forced a turnover. Machado suggested a rope-style gimmick, but that didn’t seem to fit the team's identity.

“We were like, ‘A rope? We wear Cuban links in Miami,' ” Rumph told USA TODAY Sports. 

Machado delivered with a massive Cuban-link chain that featured an elegant Miami “U” pendant, studded with 850 stones. The chain debuted in Week 1 of the 2017 season, and pictures of players wearing the chain spread over social media.

“The players love it -- what other sport can you get national recognition like this?” Rumph said. “Your helmet’s off ... and 60,000 to 70,000 fans can see you and cheer you on.”

Who knows whether the chain helped the Hurricanes double their interception output from 2016 to 2017, but it certainly was a hit in terms of popularity. So the program upgraded for 2018.

“The second [chain] is where we said ‘you know what, let’s step it up,’ " Machado told USA TODAY Sports. 

"University of Miami called us and was like ‘hey, is there any chance we can beat that? It was such a success.’ I said, ‘Well, why don’t we do Sebastian the Ibis, and we’ll go with a little bigger [chain]. Instead of two kilos, let’s do three kilos." 

Defensive players now wear a turnover chain with a dazzling pendant depicting Sebastian the Ibis. The new piece weighs over eight pounds and features more than 4,000 stones.

"Now the question is, can we top this one," Machado said with a laugh. 

Gimmicks are nothing new to college football. Virginia Tech has given a battered lunch pail to its best defensive player every week since 1995, while Alabama introduced the idea of a turnover prop in 2015 with its “Ball Out Belt," which resembles a championship wrestling belt.

Seeing the popularity and social media exposure that these props have brought along, several other programs have jumped on the gimmick bandwagon in recent years: 

The plank's story began when wide receiver Tanner Jones stumbled on it during a 2015 spring break trip. The plank later appeared on the sideline and the locker room. Finally, when safety Taylor Henkle picked off a pass against Montana State in 2017, he went to the sideline and hoisted the plank above his head, starting a new tradition.The plank has since been presented to any player who records a turnover.

Between the social media exposure and the enjoyment that players get from them, it is easy to see why turnover props have caught on so quickly over the last few seasons. 

“The main focus is just emphasizing getting the ball back, so that’s why we do it. We have fun with it," said T.J. Carter, starting defensive back for the Tigers.

"That’s the whole purpose of the takeaway robe, having fun while we handle our business at the same time.”

 

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