Once the team arrived from practice at the University of San Diego, quarterback Zac Robinson, cornerback Perrish Cox, offensive guard Steve Denning, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, wide receiver Dez Bryant, offensive tackle Russell Okung, and head coach Mike Gundy along with his sons Gunner and Gage were whisked to the dolphins feeding tank where bottle nose dolphins Deke and Punch were there to interact with the Cowboys.
Punch caught a pass from quarterback Zac Robinson and the Cowboys all took turns learning the signs to signal the dolphins to jump, swim, dance, and climb up on the edge of the pond area to be petted by the players, Gundy, and his children. Perrish Cox said that Punch, who he was petting, felt like rubber. Another player said the dolphins skin felt like a cold hot dog.
After several tricks and several passes, Robinson was taught the sign to signal Punch to jump in the air. Punch went up and landed on the water in the equivalent of a belly flop splashing Robinson and everybody around him.
"I did something like this (making a check mark in the air with his finger) and he started jumping everywhere and getting everybody wet," said Robinson. "It's amazing what these dolphins can do."
"It is his fault, she told him the dolphin would do that but I don't think he believed
her," added Perrish Cox.
You could see the delight in the eyes of Gundy, who 20 years ago was experiencing many of these same memories as a player and now is going through them again as a head coach and a father.
"I'll tell you, Sea World I remember more about this place than I do anything," said Gundy. "It is pretty neat that they showed up here at the last second because it's not every day that you get to pet the dolphins like that.
"They were tremendous and I know our players got a big kick out of it. I know they were impressed with them, being up this close, I know it was really nice being out here."
Gage and Gunner jumped right in there to pet the dolphins and feed them. Gunner fed Deke a big fish, while Gage opted to feed Deke a piece of squid.
"They did jump right in but those dolphins are so approachable and you can tell just looking at them how approachable they are," added Gundy with pride in his boys.
The Cowboys players were every bit the kids the Gundy boys were. Dolphins and Sea World have that kind of effect on everybody in the bowl travel party as fans were out there experiencing the event as well. Cox was most impressed with the dolphins ability to track the football. He thought they were pretty good.
"I guess they love football. Man, it is actually really fun seeing a dolphin for the first time in my life," Cox said.
Robinson added, "This is awesome. We got our practice done in the morning and then we get to go out and do something like this. It is a lot of fun and we don't get to do things like this in Stillwater."
Practices have been brisk as was the morning practice on Saturday. This was like a Wednesday practice during the regular season and it moved quickly with lots of special teams work early and fast-paced work for the offense and the defense versus the scout teams.
"We don't practice very long," explained Gundy. "Players don't want to practice three hours. So we get out there and get our work done in two hours. We get it done and it's worked well for us."
Gundy also addressed the idea from the local media that this will be a shootout between two really good offenses with little defense being played.
"There are two very good offenses playing in the game and then I think there are two defenses that are better than most people think," Gundy said.
"I think Oregon has made plays on defense and they have gone up against people that can move the ball a little bit. They have good skill in the secondary and they have guys that can get to the passer. We have respect for their defense. It will be interesting to see what happens and I think it is a game against two very evenly matched teams."
All-American wide receiver Dez Bryant says he has put in the work as has the offense realizing this game and the outcome is very important.
"I think our offense has been working hard," said Bryant. "We know they are good, but we are staying strong and we will be ready to do what we need to for that tenth win. That tenth win is very important."
Gundy said he is aware that his players have had plenty of time and leeway so far but things start tightening down after tonight.
"They've had a good time the last few days but I think they will get more focused the next few days leading up to the game," said Gundy, who as a player liked his free time but as a coach isn't anxious to hear what goes on with the players.
"They are pretty quiet around me because I'm not one that is much for their stories. I used to enjoy those in college, but they are good guys. We haven't had any calls. They are responsible and know how they need to represent the University in the right way."
The straggler was in late on Friday and wide receiver Damian Davis joined his teammates for practice on Saturday, but he also got to stay after for some extra work to make up for all the practice he missed on Christmas Day and on Friday.
Cowboys Visit Sea World
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