DAVIE — It took a few weeks, but Dolphins rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp finally felt at home.
”I walked out here about 10 a.m. and saw the smoke. It reminded me of Montana and the forest fires we have up there,” said Tripp after he and 89 of his teammates started their third week of OTAs on Monday morning with a smoky haze from nearby brushfires hanging over Miami’s training facility.
Tripp, who grew up and went to college in the town of Missoula, Montana, has been away from home since he was selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.
Along with fellow rookies from northern towns like offensive lineman Billy Turner (Shoreview, Minn.) and Brock Jensen (Waupaca, Wis.), Tripp has been acclimating himself to South Florida and the extreme weather conditions that outdoor athletes face here.
”The humidity is just crazy,” said the 23-year-old. ”I really underestimated the heat this time of year. I’d thought it would be somewhat hot, but not like this. Every single day it gets better, though. The training staff here does an amazing job keeping us hydrated. They have a plan for us and we just have to follow it.”
That plan involves daily hydration testing and player-specific meal and drink plans.
”They tell us how much to drink, and when and what to eat,” said Tripp. ”It’s a great deal for us. They feed us, and that’s really helped me out with my weight and keeping my strength up.”
”Hydration is huge, they (training staff) touch on it every day,” said Jensen, who signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent and will compete with Pat Devlin for a backup spot behind Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore. ”The other thing with the humidity as a quarterback is that the ball gets slippery and slick quickly. It’s tricky for a QB.”
For Turner, who weighs 315 pounds, sweating excessively can result in major weight loss, but the former North Dakota State star said he’s been able to maintain his weight so far.
”The weather’s been fine, hasn’t really bothered me at all,” said Turner, who will live with Jensen, the guy he helped protect in college. ”It’s just different. Complete opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m coming from way up north to going as far south as I can go.”
It’s not just the weather the rookies have had to get adjusted to. While Turner grew up just outside of Minneapolis, Tripp and Jensen come from small communities with minimal people and traffic.
Those fans shouldn’t expect to see any of these guys in South Beach soon, however, as they all admitted they have yet to visit because they’re too busy studying their schemes. It’s certainly nice to be a little closer to the ocean for once, however.
”Well, our lakes have beaches, but probably Astoria, Oregon. A 10-hour drive,” said Tripp when asked where the nearest beach to Missoula is.
And while the beach doesn’t quite make up for the mountains that Tripp misses and the people that Jensen yearns for, all three are thankful for the chance they have to be professional football players.
”When I heard I was coming to Miami, I was just looking forward to playing football again,” said Jensen. ”It’s a great opportunity. I just want to help this team win football games.”
One football game Jensen knows who will win is this year’s contest between the Montana Grizzlies and the NDSU Bison. The meeting on September 20 in Fargo will be the first between the teams since 2003. Last year’s FCS playoffs almost provided a matchup, but Montana fell one game short of a quarterfinal tilt.
”I’ve been talking to Jordan, and there’s no chance Montana wins that game. If he wants to take a bet, he’ll be the unlucky one.”