A former Miami Dolphins player may be living up to his team’s aquatic name.
Rob Konrad, 38, who played for the team until a decade ago, apparently fell off a boat Wednesday while fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and survived by swimming 9 miles, according to a story on the National Football League’s website.
Swimming that distance in open water is incredibly difficult. Professional marathon and ultradistance swimmers need someone to provide nutrition along the way to avoid dehydration. Konrad wouldn’t have had that and had to contend with a current.
Depending on Konrad’s location in the Gulf Stream, he would have had to swim west, across the water’s south-to-north current, according to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. The current could have been up to 4 miles per hour.
Details about Konrad’s arduous Atlantic Ocean adventure are unclear. He’ll provide more information at a news conference Monday in Plantation, Florida.
But if true, it’s an epic feat.
“When I heard about this, I was like, ‘Wow!'” said Sid Cassidy, a nationally renowned distance swimmer who has five times swum the 22-mile course around Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“If you’re a good swimmer and you’re faced with an emergency, you could be capable of doing what he did,” Cassidy said. “I’m saying it’s possible. But it sure would be tough.”
A former pro athlete like Konrad knows what it takes to push past pain, Cassidy surmised. He would know how to focus and to stay calm, too, an essential for any long swim in open water.
Cassidy, the aquatics director and head swimming coach for Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida, has trained in the same waters where Konrad,according to the Miami Herald, sailed from Hillsboro Inlet in Deerfield Beach at 10:30 a.m. last Wednesday.
The former fullback was alone in his 36-foot boat, the newspaper said, and fell overboard at 1 p.m. after hooking a fish and stumbling. The Herald reported he finally reached shore at 4:40 a.m. Thursday.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it’s investigating the boating incident.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma told CNN that Palm Beach authorities contacted the Coast Guard to report that Konrad was missing.
The Coast Guard ordered a helicopter that was already flying to begin to search for Konrad and was just about to order a plane to help, but Palm Beach law enforcement called that off when officers found Konrad on the beach, Somma said.
The ex-football player was reportedly hospitalized and treated for hypothermia and dehydration.
Normally swimming a mile in the ocean could take 20 to 30 minutes — if a person is very fit, said Cassidy.
Konrad played for the Dolphins from 1999 to 2004 and is the CEO of Alterna Financial, a South Florida financial services company. It appears Konrad had an average football career. He was the second-round pick in the Dolphins’ 1999 NFL draft. He played 57 games for the Dolphins and was released from his contract in 2005.
“I can’t imagine that swimming isn’t part of his typical workout,” Cassidy said, guessing that Konrad was an experienced boatman who judged which direction to swim by the angle of the sun.
But even if Konrad knew which direction to start swimming, he’d have to contend with constant salt water in his eyes, intense muscle fatigue, wind and, of course, current, noted Bruce Wigo, the president and CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale.
“From the salt alone, you’d have a tongue the size of a baseball,” said Wigo.
Konrad would have stripped off his clothes, he added, because keeping them on would have produced an incredible drag.
“I’m excited to know the details and to hear from him about how he pulled this off,” Wigo said. “It’s amazing what someone can do when their life is at stake.”