Survivor clinging to overturned NFL player’s boat

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A missing boater found clinging to an overturned boat was rescued Monday off Florida’s Gulf Coast, but the search continued for two NFL players and another man aboard who didn’t return from a weekend fishing trip.

A missing boater found clinging to an overturned boat was rescued Monday off Florida’s Gulf Coast, but the search continued for two NFL players and another man aboard who didn’t return from a weekend fishing trip. Survivor Nick Schuyler, a former University of South Florida player, told rescuers that the 21-foot boat was anchored when it flipped Saturday evening in rough seas and that the others got separated from the boat, Capt. Timothy M. Close said. Schuyler, who was wearing a life vest, had been clinging to the boat since then. The boat belongs to Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, who along with free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith and former South Florida player William Bleakley, remained missing. Television footage showed Schuyler conscious but weak as he was being taken off a helicopter at Tampa General Hospital and placed on a stretcher. The hospital declined immediate comment. Close said the Coast Guard would search for the three missing men for "quite awhile." The four left Clearwater Pass early Saturday in calm weather, but heavy winds picked up through the day and the seas got heavy, with waves of 7 feet and higher, peaking at 15 feet on Sunday. A relative alerted the Coast Guard early Sunday after the men did not return as expected. The Coast Guard had searched about 16,000 square miles of ocean for the Everglades-manufactured boat by Monday morning. Everglades boats are built with compressed foam encased in Fiberglas, which makes them difficult or impossible to sink. Waves had subsided to 6 to 8 feet, still enough for a small craft advisory, National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Barron said. Cooper 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. The 29-year-old Smith of Richmond, Va., is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds and had 30 tackles, including three sacks, and an interception in 12 games last season for the Detroit Lions. Cooper, 26, who is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, has spent five seasons with five different teams, appearing in 26 games with the Buccaneers in 2004 and 2005 but playing sparingly since. He grew up in Gilbert, Ariz., and his father Bruce is a prominent sportscaster for KPNX-TV in Phoenix.

______ Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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