Miami Dolphins players, spending their week practicing in California because of Hurricane Irma, know something about being displaced.
So when news reached the players that Central High School’s football team was basically stranded and financially strapped in Las Vegas because Irma ruined scheduled travel plans, the local professional team decided to provide aid for the local prep team.
Dolphins players are paying for lodging and transportation costs for the Central traveling party of 69 players, coaches and administrators -- costs that had rocketed for Central (pardon the pun) to multiple tens of thousands of dollars.
“I’m ecstatic because anytime you see an organization like the Dolphins think about and take care of a high school team like ourselves, that’s amazing,” said Central coach Roland Smith, who incidentally was drafted by the Dolphins in 1991 out of the University of Miami.
The Rockets on Friday upset three-time national champion Bishop Gorman, a private school in Summerlin, Nev. And Central is ranked No. 16 nationally by USA Today. But being nationally ranked doesn’t mean Central is funded like a national program.
“We don’t have a budget like the Dolphins,” Smith said. “We don’t have a budget like a college. We don’t have a national budget to stay extra days after a game and stuff like that.”
But that’s exactly what Central had to do because their flight back to South Florida last weekend was canceled when the storm threatened Florida. And other flights weren’t exactly capable of taking on 69 extra passengers at once.
So the SpringHill Suites near the Las Vegas Convention Center became home. A stay that was supposed to end Sunday will extend for some members of the Central party until Friday before they can finally get home. The group is leaving in staggered parties of six, seven, and eight people per flight.
The Dolphins heard of Central’s situation through various connections. Manager of youth programs Troy Drayton got a phone call informing him of the situation. Others read about the Central’s situation in a Miami Herald article.
Then players heard about it. A couple decided to help. And then a couple more. And then more.
Early on receiver Kenny Stills, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, safety Reshad Jones, and receiver Jarvis Landry agreed to contribute money to pay Central’s bill. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons joined in late Wednesday evening. Other players seemed interested in helping as well.
The Dolphins also worked out a deal with Dignitary Transportation and that service will pick up the Central arrivals at the airport and drop them off at the school.
“We don’t have big booster clubs like other schools have that can take care of things like this,” Smith said. “But when you have an organization the kids look up to and they step forward, it’s an awesome thing.”
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero