- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009


CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — The Coast Guard says the overturned boat it found off Florida’s Gulf Coast belongs to Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper. The survivor found clinging to the vessel is former University of South Florida player Nick Schuyler.

The Coast Guard says Cooper, Detroit Lions free agent Corey Smith and another former USF player, William Bleakley, remain missing.

TV showed Schuyler being helped from a Coast Guard helicopter at Tampa General Hospital. He appeared conscious.

The Coast Guard had been searching for the four men since they were reported missing early Sunday morning, one day after they left on a fishing trip. As of Monday morning, the Coast Guard had searched 16,000 square miles off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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.

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 life jackets and flares on board. The Coast Guard did not receive 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.

The 29-year-old Smith, of Richmond, is 6-foot-2 and 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 and 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.

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