Dec. 20, 2011
SAN DIEGO - Unlike many of his teammates, Louisiana Tech defensive back Chad Boyd is not a fisherman.
But he caught a big one Monday.
Boyd and his teammates went to SeaWorld as part of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl events leading to Wednesday night's 7 p.m. (CT) kickoff against Texas Christian in Qualcomm Stadium.
Boyd and receiver Myles White got a special peek at a special fish: they went "backstage" to feed a beluga whale named Allua.
"I had never imagined doing anything like that," said Boyd, a junior out of Archbishop Shaw in New Orleans. "I mean, it was a pretty neat experience. I'd never shaken a whale's hand before."
Allua, an 8-foot, 1,400-pounder, would be plenty to tackle. Boyd is 5-11, 200.
"She weighs about as much as four linebackers," Boyd said.
The guys weren't told what they'd be doing when they were taken backstage. Obviously, they were surprised. It's not every day you meet - and get kissed by - a white whale. Or shake her fin.
"I wasn't sure what to do, so I just made sure she didn't splash me too much," Boyd said. "It was a unique experience. I mean, this whole trip's been pretty unique. Everybody's having a great time; it's an enjoyable city."
"I could get used to this town," said senior defensive end Matt Broha, No. 2 all-time in Tech career sacks. "It's been a lot of fun so far."
The team had visited the world-famous San Diego Zoo Sunday; the biggest difference between visiting the zoo and visiting SeaWorld?: at SeaWorld, you don't have to worry as much about stepping in something.
Still, there were pitfalls. Junior defensive lineman Jon'al White was feeding a little fish to a sea lion when a seagull flew by, grabbed the bait -- and a piece of White's finger.
"He started screaming like a little girl," said Missy Farrar, the athletic department's academic compliance coordinator. "Spent the whole afternoon holding his finger and asking everybody to look at it."
DeMarcion Evans, a senior defensive back out of Airline in Bossier City, also got "disrespected" by a seagull - only from its other end.
Said Farrar, "That's why nobody walked near him the rest of the day."
The park had a bit of a commercial feel to it: lots of stuffed penguins and whales for sale. Some players spent time at the arcade and playing games in the area you'd find along any state fair midway.
It's not like there were fish everywhere.
But when you DID find fish, they were either small and multi-colored or unusually big. Shamu the killer whale was on display but performed just once Monday. (Union rules, maybe?) The shark tank was a big draw, but most of the sharks were just three feet long. (It's easy to say `just three feet long' in regard to a shark when they're behind glass in an aquarium.)
A bit disturbing was the dolphin show, which really was a show. A show of 25 long, long minutes. (Imagine the last two minutes of an NBA game. It was that long.) There were half-dozen dolphins doing what dolphins do: jump out of the water and eat fish, as God Himself trained them to do. But there were people too, and Disney music, and a story that had the performers dressing up in green tights and pink tights and flying over the water on wires dressed as birds and ?. It was just all very confusing. A person would dive and a dolphin would flip and music would play and a water fountain or two would suddenly erupt. It was a shady Peter Pan movie meets the Olympic gym team meets a Charlie the Tuna commercial.
But The Penguin Encounter, that was a different ballgame. Even though none of these guys could ever make the team as starters - too slow and short - they do bring a thrilling and comical amount of presentation.
Players rode on a slow-moving floor watching dozens of penguins in their somewhat-natural habitat behind a long glass wall. One young penguin stood in the corner, as if his parents had put him in "time out." You could practically read his mind: "Hey, it's BEEN five minutes already."
But again, it was another fun outing for the usually landlocked Bulldogs. Where else but SeaWorld can you see sea turtles, the fossilized jaws of the Megalodon Shark, a black vulture and a tufted puffin?
"I'm from Orlando so I've been to SeaWorld a few times there," said junior Blasher Saintvil. "For the most part this is the same as the one there, just a little smaller. But hey, you can't complain about that; this is a great time."
"I love the atmosphere here," said junior nickelback Craig Johnson, who returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown in Tech's most recent outing, a 44-0 shutout of New Mexico State. "I'm loving San Diego.
It's been pretty amazing and we're having a lot of fun. But the main thing is that we do our job on Wednesday."
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