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Coach Philbin Takes Team Off Site For Surprise Community Project And Outing

Posted Jun 13, 2012

This morning when the entire Miami Dolphins team stepped into the team meeting room the last thing the players expected to be doing was spreading mulch at a local elementary school. So much for hitting the weights and taking to the practice field.


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Head Coach Joe Philbin surprised his players by putting them to work on a big community project at Larks Elementary School in Lauderhill, helping to beautify the campus. The school was chosen for this special honor by the Broward County School District and the students and teachers could hardly contain their enthusiasm when the four buses full of Dolphins players and coaches rolled up.

“It was a great welcome and those kids were excited obviously to see the players and interact with them during the course of the morning,” said Philbin, who took the lead in organizing the project. “We told the team this morning that when I interviewed for the job I told (owner) Steve (Ross) that we wanted to be a team that represented this organization the right way on and off the field. … This gives us a chance to do some things off the field – together.”

When you’re trying to keep a secret from 90 players you have to try to cover all of your bases, so Philbin made sure to keep his plan quiet until the last possible moment. Hiding the buses was impossible, so as the players made their way through the lobby into the auditorium they saw their first clue.

Some of the veterans began to catch wind a little earlier than that just because they have a knack for sniffing things out. Left guard Richie Incognito, who knows away around a rake and a shovel, enjoyed working with the kids and was one of those who liked the surprise.

“It’s funny because we have a bunch of undercover secret agents in the building so once there’s a little bit of a schedule change or he moves something up five minutes everyone’s antennae go up,” Incognito said. “When Coach said we were going to come out here and help the community it was great and guys were excited. This is actually work where we can see the finished product and it allows us to get back to our roots. I think along all of our career paths a rake and mulching were a big part of our career paths at one point.”

Incognito surely could speak for himself and the likes of Jake Long and Dan Carpenter, but running back Reggie Bush admitted he never saw much landscaping growing up in the San Diego area. Fellow California native Davone Bess shared the same lack of experience.

“I pulled a couple of weeds in my day and mowed a couple of lawns but that’s about it. A couple of guys had to tell me what mulch was before we even got here,” Bess said. “Everybody was shocked initially because we had no idea what was going on, but for us to come out and get involved in the community like this is really special.”

Once the players got off the bus and picked up a pair of gardening gloves it was off to the parking lot to unload big bags of mulch from the pallets and carry them to the designated areas. They were split up into 10 different groups and assigned a different spot on campus and within less than two hours the school looked beautiful.

The smiles on the kids’ faces as they got autographs and posed for pictures with the players were enough to let Coach Philbin know that his idea was a success. And if that wasn’t enough, the school’s principal, Dr. Valoria Latson, was more than appreciative.

“We’ve been needing this job done and I’ve been trying to solicit donations from some of the companies and we just hadn’t been as successful as we needed to be, so I’m very grateful,” Dr. Latson said. “I think it went very well and the kids got to see a different side of the players. The opportunity to have worked shoulder to shoulder with popular sports figures, that’s fantastic.”

It wasn’t all hard work for the players on this day as Coach Philbin had a second surprise in store. Once they finished the community project, signed autographs and posed for a group picture it was back on the buses for a short ride to SpareZ Bowling Alley in Davie.

Philbin arranged a bowling outing for the team complete with lunch and he saw it as an opportunity to promote some more team bonding. A lot of the players are still getting to know each other, especially the rookies when it comes to the veterans.

“This is again a little different setting and it allowed me to partner up some guys with different experience,” Philbin said. “I had rookies with veterans, offensive guys with defensive guys and defensive backs with offensive linemen. It was just a chance to get the guys together in a different setting.”
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