CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Edwin Pata's job is to convince top high school football players that the University of Miami is the best possible place for them to attend college.
He does it to preserve his brother's legacy.
Edwin Pata is the brother of former Hurricanes defensive lineman Bryan Pata, who was shot and killed on the night of Nov. 7, 2006, in the parking lot of his apartment complex a couple of hours after football practice. For several years afterward, no one in the Pata family could bear to be around Miami football. The pain was too fresh, too real.
But now, Edwin Pata is there every day — with his brother constantly in mind.
"If there's anybody who can tell a player why Miami is the right place for them, it's me," said Edwin Pata, who is in his first season as the Hurricanes' assistant director of recruiting. "What happened to Bryan had nothing to do with the University of Miami. Selling this place, a place he was passionate about, a place our family is passionate about, is no problem. This is what he would want me to be doing."
Bryan Pata's killer was never identified, and a Miami-Dade police spokesman said Tuesday that his case remains "open and active" almost 13 years after the lineman was buried in the suit that he was planning to wear to the NFL draft. Emotions still hit the family quite hard at times, and Pata's mother Jeannette still is desperate to know exactly why it happened. She still sheds tears. Time has helped, but not entirely healed.
"I still catch myself looking for him on the sidelines sometimes," Edwin Pata said.
It didn't appear to be a robbery, since the killer didn't take the cash Bryan Pata had in his pocket or the Infiniti SUV with the personalized plates that he was driving. Many other parts of the tragedy remain unknown, maybe forever.
Edwin Pata moved on as best he could, coaching at Florida A&M — a Rattlers game where he coached from the press box against Miami in 2009 was his first time back at a Hurricanes game since the year his brother died — along with FIU and Miami's La Salle High. At La Salle, he had some talks with then-Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz about recruiting.
When Diaz became Miami's head coach, he reached out with an idea.
"Big-picture wise, we were trying to restructure our recruiting department, sort of invent new roles that didn't exist in the past and just sort of change a little bit about the way we go about recruiting," Diaz said. "We were looking for people who grew up here, were tied to our community, could help us. Edwin was a guy I knew, who impressed me and became a very attractive candidate."
With that, for the first time since 2006, a Pata was back at Miami. He leaped at the opportunity.
"This was a no-brainer," Edwin Pata said. "This is the place I always wanted to be. I'm a Cane at heart. I said that even when I was at other places. I've always been a Cane at heart and I just want to do my part to make this place even more successful."
The perception that other schools used Bryan Pata's death against Miami in recruiting always bothered his brother, who sees the irony in that he's now out convincing players to become Hurricanes — knowing full well that questions about his brother will come up from time to time.
His answer in those moments is simple.
"We want people here who were like Bryan," Edwin Pata said. "We want people who love this school, who love this city, who want to represent the city of Miami. That's who he was. That's who we want. We'll recruit you, we'll appreciate you, we'll want you to come here, but we want to know that you want to be here — like my brother, who was passionate about getting this program back to what it was. That's why I'm here, to find those guys."