Dolphins want stronger ties to us

The Cayman Islands could have a greater bond with their beloved Miami Dolphins. 

After last week’s junior camp in George Town, the feeling within the NFL franchise’s youth programme is that Cayman should be an official stronghold in the future. 

Former Miami tight-end Troy Drayton, 42, said the club is impressed with the current support in Cayman. 

“The goal is to make lifelong Dolphin fans and be part of the community here,” Drayton said. “At least 80 per cent of the Island is Dolphins nation and Miami fans, which shows what a strong presence we have here. That kind of impact on the island is a great thing. 

“We hope to start doing more activities here to make that bond stronger.” 

Taking place at the T.E. McField Sports Centre (popularly called the Annex), the two-day Dolphins camp attracted about 150 kids. It was the first of its kind in Cayman, a place that has a great affinity for American football and previously attracted former and current greats like Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick and Martellus Bennett.  

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism partnered with the Dolphins for the camp with the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association, the local governing body for flag football, endorsing the event. Aimed at youngsters ages 6 to 14, the sessions taught American football fundamentals like passing, catching and defending. 

Leading the Dolphins contingent was Twan Russell, director of the team’s youth and community outreach programme. The former Miami linebacker said future Cayman initiatives will hinge on government policy. 

“It really depends on Cayman and how much they, the government, want out of it,” Russell said. “As long as they have a long-term vision, they can transform the sports tourism landscape. 

“Cayman definitely has athletes and has kids that are capable. They just need the reps and you have to do that. In two days, the kids grasped concepts that it takes adults years to grasp. They have the build and it came through clear that they play other sports. 

“American football is one of those games where you have to play it together on a regular basis to get better at it.” 

Russell, 39, was among several former players at the camp. The coaching staff featured Drayton, Sam Madison, Oronde Gadsden, Ed Perry, Derrick Rodgers, Lorenzo Hampton, Donnell Bennett and James Brown. Team mascot T.D. was also present.  

Russell and Drayton made a promotional visit to Cayman to promote the camp back in May. 

Madison, 39, was arguably the biggest name of that group as he retired in 2008 after playing 12 seasons and winning a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants. The Georgia native said his first impression of Cayman was a good one. 

“This is my first time in Cayman and my wife came down a few years ago,” Madison said. “All she could talk about were the beaches, sand and how when you come by plane, what you see is exactly what you get. The people are nice, welcoming, friendly and it’s phenomenal what you have here on the island and it’s close. 

“The kids here are a step above what we expected. The agility is good for their age, they have the tenacity to grasp the concepts we were teaching them. They did a good job of accepting our teaching. Even though they’re used to it, the heat was a factor and it was a challenge for them as well as for us.  

“But they did real good. What we did wasn’t tackle football but it was the closest thing for them.” 

Madison, who currently lives in Davie, Florida, has played alongside notable stars, like Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain and Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He said as a result of the Cayman camp, he has a new appreciation for his days with Miami. 

“People here grew up with the Dolphins in their households and they showed that support right off the plane,” Madison said. “I had the opportunity to be in their homes since I was playing in 1997. To come back years later and meet their kids, feels good. Cayman is right in Miami’s backyard and we got to keep this going and keep building. It’s something the Dolphins should continue.” 

Dolphins-Cayman-Islands-Story

Local youngsters prove to be pigskin lovers in George Town.
Photo: Matthew Yates