TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A missing man found clinging to an overturned boat was rescued Monday off Florida's Gulf Coast, but the search continued for two NFL players and a third 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. Since then, Schuyler, who was wearing a life vest, had been hanging onto the boat found by a Coast Guard cutter 35 miles off Clearwater.
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.
The search area is now "substantially smaller," based on where they found the boat and Schuyler, Close said. Searchers had previously covered 16,000 square miles of ocean.
Television footage showed Schuyler conscious but weak as he was being taken off a helicopter at Tampa General Hospital and placed on a stretcher. His father said he was in serious but stable condition.
Schuyler's mother, Marsha Schuyler, said her son told her that he survived by thinking about how he didn't want her to go to his funeral.
The family's joy at him being found alive was tempered by the search for his friends.
"We still have three men missing, and we're not going to talk too much until we find these guys," said his father, Stuart Schuyler. "We're all praying for them. These guys are all very close friends."
Close said the Coast Guard would search for the 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.
Stuart Schuyler said his son "looks OK."
"He's got some cuts and bruises. He's dehydrated," he said.
The men were aboard an Everglades-manufactured boat, which is built with compressed foam encased in Fiberglas, making it difficult to sink.
The weather had improved from over the weekend, with waves subsiding 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. He also played for the San Francisco 49ers and was a standout at North Carolina State.
Cooper, 26, who is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, played college ball at Washington, and has spent five seasons with five different teams, appearing in 26 games with the Buccaneers in 2004 and 2005. He's played sparingly since. He grew up in Gilbert, Ariz., and his father Bruce is a prominent sportscaster for KPNX-TV in Phoenix.
Associated Press Writer Mitch Stacy contributed to this report.