Bucs TE Todd Yoder (left) and a Florida Aquarium diver have a close encounter with a sand tiger shark
For most anyone who has seen the movie JAWS, the notion of swimming with sharks isn't particularly high on the to-do list. Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Todd Yoder, it recently became clear, is slightly different than most.
The Indiana native, who earns a living making high-speed collisions on special teams, has always been the adventurous type. And, since signing in Tampa in 2000, he has learned to love the aquatic activities available in his new hometown.
Having already tried deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, water skiing and numerous other water sports and adventures, Yoder figured the one thing missing from his résumé was a swim with the world's most ferocious predators. Naturally.
So, armed with a wet suit, some scuba gear and a Florida Aquarium dive master, Yoder took the plunge to the bottom of the Aquariam's shark tank. Among his fellow swimmers was a disquieting number of nurse sharks, zebra sharks, sand tiger sharks and black tip reef sharks.
Throughout the experience, which is available to all certified divers, Yoder was surrounded by sharks as they swam behind his back, in front of his face and, most memorably for him, overhead.
"The coolest part was probably when they had a sand shark and it came right over my head," said Yoder. "It couldn't have been more than a foot over my head and to be that close to a big shark was definitely a big thrill. It was a decent size shark with a big gnarly mouth and big teeth, looking mean and nasty as he swam right over my head."
Yoder, displaying some bit of sanity, admitted to a few anxious moments while in close proximity to the six-foot sand tiger shark. However, the overall experience was incredibly enjoyable for the Buc tight end.
"The shark tank was a pretty cool experience," said Yoder. "There was probably about ten sharks in there, a big sea turtle and you go down and they're swimming all around you. It's just a great experience, I really enjoyed it."
Others joined Yoder in his dive, but representatives of the Florida Aquarium were glad to have a Buccaneer come in and share the experience of getting up close and personal with what they consider the ocean's most misunderstood animal.
"It's exciting to have a Buccaneer player participate in this program," said Andrea Davis, the Aquarium's public relations coordinator. "Whenever a public figure shows interest in a program, it encourages the public to participate. As a non-profit organization, we rely on this support to keep our programs going. We had a great time."
For more information about the Florida Aquarium and how you can swim with the sharks, please call (813) 367-4005.