The Coast Guard says it is still searching for three football players missing in the Gulf of Mexico, despite windy skies and rough seas — but one official says it's going to be a "pretty tough find."
“There’s a lot of different factors involved. It depends on the sea state, the winds and the size of the vessel,” said Lt. Tommy Wallin. “We’ve had over 20 to 30 mile per hour winds over the last 24 hours.”
One missing boater, Nick Schuyler, was found Monday afternoon, clinging to an overturned boat about 30 miles off of the Gulf Coast. His rescue came almost two days after he and three others left on a fishing trip, Coast Guard spokesman Capt. Tim Close said.
Officers are still searching for Detriot Lions free-agent defensive end Corey Smith and Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, who both played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004. They’re also searching for former University of South Florida football player Will Bleakley.
Schuyler was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital where he was reportedly in stable condition.
"I went and saw him first," Schuyler's mother Marcia Schuyler said Monday. "He told me, 'Mom, I kept saying you're not going to go to my funeral.' That's what kept him hanging on."
"Thank you for praying for us," Schuyler's father Stu added.
Schuyler reportedly told authorities during his rescue that all of the boaters were alive and together at about 2 a.m. Monday, but somewhow got separated.
Capt. Close said that Coast Guard officials are are interviewing Schuyler in the hospital in an effort to refine the search, which will continue into the night.
The four men were reported missing Sunday, after they didn't return home as scheduled on Saturday evening. The Coast Guard had searched about 16,000 square miles of ocean for the boat.
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. Cooper owned the 21-foot fishing boat.
Capt. 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.
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 winless 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.