December 20th, 2016 | BAHAMAS BOWL


Eagles and Monarchs get up close and personal with dolphins at Atlantis

Bowl week is supposed to provide student athletes with a lifetime of memories, a reward for months of hard work. One of those rewards for Old Dominion and Eastern Michigan came Tuesday afternoon when the team captains from the two schools were given the opportunity to swim with dolphins.

“This is the best destination to play in a bowl game,” Old Dominion University linebacker TJ Ricks said. “We’ve had a lot of great hospitality from the Bahamians. It’s been a great experience.”

A mixture of nervousness and excitement permeated throughout the group prior to the excursion, but each of the eight players came away impressed with the water-dwelling mammals.

“It’s amazing how they jump in the air so high, and how they dive in the water and jump in the air so fast,” Monarchs defensive tackle Rashaad Coward said.

But what most impressed Coward was how easily the dolphins were able to push him through the water.  At 6-feet 6-inches tall, and weighing 320 pounds, Coward isn’t used to being pushed around with ease. And while Coward doesn’t plan on being pushed around like that when the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl kicks off Friday (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET), he is thankful that his opponents won’t be quite as strong as the 600-pound dolphins.

EMU defensive lineman Pat O’Connor felt similarly after the dolphins manhandled (dolphin-handled?) his 6-4, 270-pound frame.

“I’ve never experienced something of that power before,” O’Connor remarked. “It’s extraordinary how strong they were, and how smart they were.”

Whether it was performing tricks at the trainer’s command, or it was bringing back water boards to the trainers after the players were finished using them, the dolphins showed off their intelligence throughout the afternoon.

“They’re a lot smarter than most of the people on our team,” O’Conner joked.

Many of the players thought Tuesday’s swim would be the highlight of their week to this point, but the actual swim surpassed their heightened expectations.

“It was 10-times better,” EMU running back Shaq Vann said. “It was just different. I’m not used to being that deep in the water with that big of a dolphin!”

After swimming with the dolphins, the players agree that only one thing could top this moment.

“Hopefully a win,” Ricks said.


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