Frank Minnifield packed up and left but wasn’t gone for long

During the University of Louisville’s most recent graduation ceremonies, President Jim Ramsey paused to recognize a former U of L football player from the early eighties.

At 5-foot-10, 140 pounds, he was considered by many schools to be too small for college football. But then UofL coach Vince Gibson was impressed with his speed, giving him a shot as a walk-on in 1979. 

He was Frank Minnifield,  and the odds were heavily stacked against him.

“At one point he wondered if it was worth it – he packed his bags and headed home,” said Ramsey.  “But, he stopped his car before he got home to think about his future.  As he reflected in his car on the side of the road, he realized the importance of continuing his education, so he turned his car around and returned to school at UofL.  The rest is history – a great history.”

Minnifield would go on to become team captain, lead the team in kickoff returns in  1981 with a 30.4 yard average and 15 yards per punt return.  He would be signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Browns where he would enjoy a nine-year career as a cornerback and make four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances.

After football, Minnifield would start a construction company in Lexington. Today, he runs Minnifield Enterprize, which is a purchasing agent for multiple Toyota manufacturing plants and makes parts for a Toyota supplier.

He has served as a member of the U of L Board of Trustees for five years, and last year was elected to Chairman of the Board.

Frank Minnifield to lead U of L board of trustees

Today, his former number, No. 1, is among the honored jerseys on display at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Frank Minnifield’s name wasn’t on any recruiting lists when he attended Henry Clay High School in Lexington. He badly wanted to play college football but no scholarship offers were forthcoming.

He would catch the eye of Vince Gibson who would let him to walk on the University of Louisville in 1979. Making the most of that opportunity, Minnifield would have an outstanding career as a corner back and punt returner. He would go to play for the Cleveland Browns for eight seasons, earning Pro Bowl three years in a row.

Minnifield’s persistence and skills have earned him the respect and admiration of his fellow members of the U of L Board of Trustees. He was recently elected Chairman of the Board, the first former U of L football player to ever hold the position. He fills some big shoes as he succeeds Owsley Brown Frazier.

He still resides in Lexington, where he owns Minnifield Enterprises, a construction company.