On Christmas Day, as most were tearing through wrapping paper and carving up the ham, Ryan Tannehill and wife Lauren were making the rounds at a local hospital, visiting sick kids.
“You don’t know who you’re affecting, but if you affect one, it’s totally worth it,” Lauren Tannehill said. “To see them smile in a hospital bed, it’s totally worth it.”
They’re welcome back any time. Ryan Tannehill even has his own white coat.
Broward Health made the Dolphins’ starting quarterback an honorary physician Thursday, announcing Tannehill as the public face of the hospital’s orthopedic and sports medicine program.
The partnership is Tannehill’s first endorsement deal since arriving in South Florida last April, and the next step in his progression as leader of the team that, if all goes well, he’ll pilot for the next decade.
“If people are recognizing you, then they care about football, and that’s something we want here in South Florida,” Tannehill said. “We want to build the fan base of the Dolphins and hopefully put more fans in the stands. The more people that recognize me, the better.”
Plenty have recognized his model wife, particularly since the Super Bowl. Lauren Tannehill is a spokeswoman for Duffy’s restaurant, and appeared in a local television ad during the year’s biggest game.
It’s as close as Ryan Tannehill got to the playoffs this year, something he is working to rectify in 2013.
This time last year, he and his young bride had no idea where they’d end up. Miami was Lauren’s first choice – she prefers warm weather – but neither had any real control over their futures.
Now, Tannehill is taking command of the franchise. After a few weeks off to let his body and spirit heal – the couple road-tripped to native Texas with their dogs and finally got to a South Florida beach for the first time – he returned to Dolphins headquarters to prepare for his sophomore year.
Tannehill plans to spend the offseason here, working out at the team’s gym and throwing to the few teammates who stuck around – and are still on the roster.
The Dolphins have more than a dozen unrestricted free agents – including eight starters – set to hit the open market next month. That, along with the Dolphins’ roughly $47 million in salary cap space and nine draft picks, likely means Tannehill will, by default, be one of the team’s most familiar faces next fall – even though it’ll be just his second season.
“I have faith it’s going to work out,” Tannehill said. “I have faith in our organization, in our leadership in the [front] office, that they’re going to make decisions for us and bring in guys we think we can work with.
“I’m excited to see how it shakes out.”
Other Tannehill tidbits from Thursday’s announcement:
• He would be fine if the Dolphins used a later-round pick on a quarterback: “The game is about competition. I’m excited to compete with anybody, [even] if it’s on my own team.”
• He’s intrigued by the Pistol offense, which carried the 49ers within five yards of a Super Bowl championship: “It’s exciting to see the NFL grow in that direction ... of mobile quarterbacks who are able to get out and run a little bit. You see it all across the league now and it’s exciting.”
• He plans to speak soon with some of the league’s elite quarterbacks, in hopes they might mentor him: “There’s a few I’m going to reach out to. We’ll see how it works out.”
• He will spend the offseason improving his footwork and accuracy under pressure: “Throwing under duress is a huge thing is the NFL. You have to be able to simulate those things throughout the entire offseason so you’re not just throwing in a pocket where there’s no one around you.”
Dozens mobbed him Thursday, but they wore scrubs and stethoscopes, not cleats and chinstraps. Tannehill was a biology major at Texas A&M, and would consider going to medical school after his playing career is over.
For now, he’s more worried about giving the Dolphins a face lift – both on the field, and in public perception.
“He’s enjoying it,” Lauren Tannehill said. “He loves the Dolphins. They’re great to him. What more can you ask for? It’s a dream.”