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Former NFL player Rob Konrad swims continuously for 16 hours to defy death

Former Miami Dolphins player swims 27 miles to save his life.

News 13 Jan 2015, 23:54 IST
Rob Konrad
Rob Konrad

“Happy to be here. I shouldn’t be here”, were among the first words that Rob Konrad uttered in a news conference after swimming for 16 hours in the Atlantic after he fell from his fishing boat. The former Miami Dolphin full-back’s will to live made him survive despite getting bitten “by a whole bunch of stuff”, jellyfishes and a circling shark as he swam 27 miles (43.5 kilometers) to safety.

The 38-year-old was clearly emotional while speaking to the media; his eyes welled up as he sat with his wife, Tammy Konrad. He was still unable to walk properly and still needs to rehydrate.

Rob, who represented the Miami Dolphins between 1999 and 2004 and is no stranger to boats, said it was “a boater’s nightmare”.

The former National Football League (NFL) player had decided to do a bit of fishing on his way to getting his boat serviced when the incident occurred.

It was a miracle he made it him: Tammy Konrad

Rob was fishing alone when a large wave hit the 36-foot-boat and he fell off the boat at 12.30 pm on Wednesday, 7th of January, nine miles off the coast. As his boat was on auto-pilot, it continued heading East and he had not worn a lifejacket.

“It was a miracle he made it home,” his wife, Tammy said.

He revealed his thoughts after falling off the boat, “I realized I was in some real trouble.”

Despite being “not much of a swimmer”, Rob alternated between breaststroke and backstroke for the duration.

He said that he was bitten “by a whole bunch of stuff” during his struggle for survival. “There was a lot of stuff glowing at night, probably some jellyfish,” he continued.

He followed the lights that he could see on the coast to recognize landmarks and identify which direction to swim in. He said, “Five or six hours in I realized, 'Maybe I can do this’.”

He was nearly saved twice, first by a fishing boat which approached within 50 yards, but Konrad wasn’t able to flag it down. The second time was when a Coast Guard helicopter looking for him flew right above him. He said almost getting rescued twice made the ordeal even more difficult.

“They had their lights on me and kept going. They didn't see me. That was a difficult time.”

Tammy revealed the support of his two daughters kept him going. “He had two angels on his back,” his wife said.

“I couldn’t walk after reaching the beach”

After a 16-hour struggle, he finally managed to reach the beach, but was unable to walk.

He recounted, “The problem was I couldn't walk. My body was shaking uncontrollably. I crawled up on the beach and warmed myself up enough to be able to walk.”

He had swam to Palm Beach, covering a distance of 27 miles. After warming himself enough to be able to walk, he rang the doorbell of an oceanfront home for help at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday morning.

His boat was found near Grand Bahama Island on Deadman’s Reef, the name which would have been associated with him had he not mustered enough strength to fight for his life.

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad was impressed by the former NFL full-back’s will to live. She said, “It's an incredible story," Nyad said. "Taking his life in his hands and deciding he was going to save himself, I admire him.”

“We're not really talking about a swimming story. We're talking about a survival story,” she continued. “I'm sure his background as an athlete — toughness, having resolve, knowing things are going to be painful — were the saving grace for him.”

Rob Konrad
Rob Konrad during his playing days for the Miami Dolphins
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