NFL players still missing in Florida
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard rescued one of four boaters on Monday missing in the Gulf of Mexico since Saturday and continued the search for two National Football League players and another man.
The rescued man was identified as Nick Schuyler, 24, of Tampa, Florida. Still missing were Corey Smith, a defensive end who played last season with the Detroit Lions, linebacker Marquis Cooper, who was with the Oakland Raiders, and William Bleakley, a former Florida college football player.
Schuyler was able to communicate with his rescuers and was taken by a Coast Guard helicopter to Tampa General Hospital.
A Coast Guard spokesman told reporters in St. Petersburg that Schuyler was found clinging to the overturned 21-foot (6-metre) fishing boat 35 miles (55 km) off the west coast of Florida on Monday morning.
The Coast Guard said it was searching the area around the boat for the missing men.
The agency had used several aircraft and ships in a search of 16,000 square miles (41,400 sq km) in the Gulf of Mexico since Saturday.
The four left Clearwater Beach on a fishing trip on Saturday morning and had been expected to return by Saturday afternoon. The area was hit by a cold front on Saturday night that caused high seas and strong winds.
Smith and Cooper were friends who began their professional careers with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL team that plays not far from where the missing boat left shore.
According to the NFL’s website, Smith, 29, played college football at North Carolina State and has 83 tackles and 8 1/2 sacks in six seasons with Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Detroit.
Cooper, 26, has 37 tackles in five seasons split between Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Seattle, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and Oakland.
Schuyler and Bleakley, 25, both played college football at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
(Reporting by Robert Green, editing by Jim Loney)