TAMPA, Fla. — The Coast Guard found a person clinging to an overturned boat off Florida’s Gulf Coast on Monday, but couldn’t immediately confirm whether it is the same boat that went missing with two NFL players aboard over the weekend.
The St. Petersburg Times reported that the Coast Guard did find the missing boat and that former University of South Florida player Nick Schuyler is the survivor.
Corey Smith, a free-agent defensive end who played for the Detroit Lions last season, and Marquis Cooper, an Oakland Raiders linebacker, as well as Schuyler and former USF teammate Will Bleakley left on a fishing trip early Saturday. Weather conditions worsened through the day, and the men didn’t return as expected in the evening.
The men were reported missing Sunday, and the Coast Guard had searched about 16,000 square miles of ocean for the 21-foot Everglades-manufactured boat by Monday morning.
Everglades boats are built with compressed foam encased in Fiberglas, which makes them difficult or impossible to sink.
Petty Officer Sondra-Kay Kneen confirmed that searchers located a boat. No further details were available.
Waves had subsided to 6 to 8 feet, still enough for a small craft advisory but considerably smaller than the 15-foot waves Sunday, National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Barron said.
Family members believed the men had lifejackets and flares on board. The Coast Guard hadn’t received a distress signal from the men.
Cooper owns the boat, and he and Smith, who were teammates with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004, have been on fishing trips before, according to Ron Del Duca, Smith’s agent.
Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close said at least one of the men was an experienced boater, and relatives provided the Coast Guard with GPS coordinates from previous fishing expeditions.
Smith, 29, of Richmond, Va., is 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds and had 30 tackles, including three sacks and one interception in 12 games last season for the winless Lions.
Cooper, 26, is 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and has spent five seasons with five different teams, appearing in 26 games with the Buccaneers in 2004 and 2005, but he has played sparingly since. He grew up in Gilbert, Ariz., and his father, Bruce, is a prominent sportscaster for KPNX-TV in Phoenix.
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