Rob Konrad opens up about his amazing 16 hour swim to shore

Rob Konrad opens up about his amazing 16 hour swim to shore
POMPANO BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The will to live and to see his two daughters again powered a former NFL player to shore after he fell overboard while fishing alone on his boat.

Monday afternoon, Rob Konrad, a retired fullback for the Dolphins, addressed the media, calling his 16-hour desperate swim in the Atlantic a "boater's nightmare".

Wednesday morning, he took his boat out of the Hillsboro Inlet on his way to Riviera Beach to drop it off at a marina for routine maintenance. Along the way, Konrad said, he decided to fish. He set the boat on auto pilot toward the Bahamas and started trolling once he reached the Gulf Stream, about nine miles off shore.

He said an usually large wave hit the boat, just as he was reeling in a fish on one of his lines, at about 1 p.m. He lost his balance and flipped over the side of the boat. Still on auto pilot, the boat kept moving -- leaving Konrad in the water without a life jacket, radio, or another boat in sight.

He said after a brief moment of panic, he decided to start swimming toward shore, hoping he might come across another boat. He said he followed the sun, which he figured was in the western side of the sky -- the direction of land. "After probably about five hours, I just said, 'I can do this, I'm gonna swim all night, and I'm going to get to shore,'" Konrad described his determination while alone in the open water.

He said he took his shirt off to make swimming easier. He wanted to stay moving to help stay warm. The water temperature was colder than his internal temperature, which meant hypothermia could set in. Konrad remembers seeing jelly fish and other animals, some biting him. He said a shark circled him once after nightfall, but it never returned.

Being alone in the ocean at night tested his mind. "After some time, I just said, 'Look, I'm not dying, tonight. I'm gonna make it to shore,'" he remembered.

The father of two said he prayed someone would save him. At one point, after sunset, he saw a fishing boat about 50 yards away. He said they did not see him. "To have the boat come that close and not hear you, or see you; you have to get your mind right at that point in time," he said.

Not long after, he said, he saw the United States Coast Guard helicopter circle above him. Again, they didn't see him, and he kept swimming toward shore. "I could see the lights getting closer and closer," he said. "At that point, you can't not make it, right?"

Sixteen hours after falling overboard, he landed on Palm Beach at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Konrad said he was in bad shape, cold, and shaking uncontrollably. He rested briefly, gathering his strength, then knocked on the door of the first house he came to.

An off duty police officer at the address called for help. "I'm very thankful the house I went to ended up responding," Konrad said in relief. "I don't know if I could have made it to the next house."

He spent the next few days in the hospital recovering from hypothermia and dehydration. He agreed to talk with the media about the incident Monday. He appeared weak, needing help to climb the stairs to the podium at the news conference. His wife sat by his side the entire time.

Konrad paused frequently while answering questions, fighting back tears. "I shouldn't be here," he said simply.

Konrad said he was determined to tuck his 8- and 10-year-old daughters into bed again. "I've got two beautiful daughters, I was hitting that shore," he said.

His wife, Tammy, said she began to get worried when Konrad wasn't home for dinner Wednesday. She recalled the thankfulness of holding Konrad's hand in the hospital after he made it to shore Thursday.

She said Konrad is dedicated to their two daughters, and she believes they powered him to safety. "I do think [it was] something special. He had two angels on his back. It's truly a miracle," Tammy Konrad said.

Konrad said he grew up around boats and is very familiar with the safety precautions. He didn't call himself the strongest swimmer, but said he spends a lot of time in and around the water.

For now, the Boynton Beach man is just happy to play the role of dad.

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