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Notre Dame-Miami 1988
Courtesy of indycar.com
Ryan Hunter-Reay grew up in Florida, played high school football and followed the Hurricanes

Why I Love College Sports (Sometimes Known As Fame And Notre Dame): IRL Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay

While Insights usually focuses on Notre Dame celebrity fans, we're branching out here and experimenting with chatting with other big college sports celebrity fans about the teams they support. If there's someone from the world of celebrity that you'd like Insights to try and chat with, drop a line at mrothstein@jg.net. When we've got someone, it'll run Mondays here at Insights.

This week, Insights brings to you IRL driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay was born in Texas, grew up in Florida and the 28-year-old spent a good portion of his life following college football, specifically the hometown Miami Hurricanes and Miami Dolphins. While he considers the Dolphins his favorite team, he also has much love for the 'Canes. In racing, Hunter-Reay was the 2007 Rookie of the Year in the Indy Racing League, was the Rookie of the Year at the 2008 Indianapolis 500 and is now a full-time driver with Vision Racing.

Irish Insights: How'd you start following Miami?

Ryan Hunter-Reay: "I grew up in South Florida, in Fort Lauderdale, and grew up loving the Miami Dolphins, Dan Marino in his heyday down there, and so the Hurricanes were, I definitely had a huge interest watching them. UM was definitely a college team I was pulling for."

II: Do you remember your first Hurricanes game?

RHR: "Yeah, at the Orange Bowl. I had actually been to Dolphins games prior and that was this big, brand new, extravagant stadium and then to go to the famous Orange Bowl, I knew about it. I was younger, but I knew about it and how, the past that it had with the Super Bowls and the national championships and everything else there. And then when I got there, it was this old, rundown stadium, but it had so much history. It was pretty cool. I went to games there until they tore it down."

II: Do you go to Miami games every year?

RHR: "Yeah, it's been less and less the past few years just because of how busy I've been with racing. I go to probably two a year. I went to one last year, but now they are playing in the big stadium."

II: Do you have a Saturday routine? Do you have to watch them or are you getting scores if you're racing?

RHR: "Absolutely. I have to be getting scores. I have all the apps on my phone to get all the scores and lines and the updates. I follow college football closely and I'm also real tight with watching pro football. The end of our season conflicts with the beginning of pro football and college so it's hard in the beginning, but it's nice that they kind of counter each other."

II: When you're watching a game on Saturday, are you pretty fanatical or is it just on in the background?

RHR: "No, no, no. I'm very big into it. I played football in high school until 11th grade and then racing took over too much. So, yeah, I'm an educated viewer as well for the reason that I played football and I played football since I was young, real young all the way up until 11th grade."

II: Did you want to play for the 'Canes one day?

RHR: "Absolutely. I wanted to play. Absolutely. That was my goal, for a while, was just to play football. That's what I lived, ate, slept, was football. And then racing karts came in and it just took off from there."

II: Do you have a favorite memory from the 'Canes?

RHR: "I remember watching the national championship games. They were very successful when I was a bit younger, even 12, 13, so that was fun watching then and you take those times for granted now because they've been struggling a little bit here and there, restructuring. I remember when Testaverde was there and some of the big guys, McGahee. And then you follow those guys as they move on to pro football, and they are always UM players so it's pretty cool."

II: What's it like when you watch them now? Do you get frustrated?

RHR: "Yeah. You get frustrated a little bit. I went to the Miami-UCF game. I went to UCF for a couple years and expected a blowout when UM played them. And then UCF gave them too much of a hard time, came back and came close to winning. It was frustrating."

II: Do you think Randy Shannon's got it to bring them back?

RHR: "I hope so. They've just been trouble off the field. It just seems like they've been facing some unnecessary issues, but they'll get it under control. It's a good program."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.

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