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Solomon Kindley: Forever Afraid of Mango Trees

It's easy to typecast a 339-pound football player. For Dolphins rookie right guard Solomon Kindley, playing in the NFL is something he dreamed about since he was in diapers. But football is far from his only talent.

Nicknamed The Big Fish, Kindley's first job was as a lifeguard.

"A lot of people don't believe I was a lifeguard," Kindley said. "Throughout the offseason, they were all like, 'Solomon, you can't swim! You can't do this,'" Kindley said. "So we finally got in the pool. I promise you … I smoked everybody. It wasn't a challenge against anybody. You can ask anybody on the team. I smoked them." 

Naturally, the first question many have when it comes to a human being that defies all logic like Kindley is, 'how did you become a lifeguard? How does someone excel in one sport that, daily, tests someone's toughness and mental makeup, but also another sport that requires such grace?'

"I couldn't play football when I was young because of weight limits," Kindley explained. "I used to go to the local pool every summer. So I was always a great swimmer. My cousins were lifeguards so when I learned I could get paid to hang out at the pool I was, 'like oh my God, sign me up!'"

Kindley's preferred summer hobby did more than become a job. It helped him to save a life.

The Georgia football team gathered at Head Coach Kirby Smart's lake house one summer for some grilling and water sports. It was running back Brian Herrien's turn on the innertube behind the boat. A short while later, after a rocky ride, he found himself in a panic in the middle of the lake.

That's where The Big Fish intervened.

"We had a team cookout at Coach (Kirby) Smart's lake house," Kindley says. "Our running back (Brian Herrien) was on the back of the boat, but he didn't know how to swim and wouldn't put on a life jacket. So he fell off the tube and starts panicking. I jumped in, grabbed him and held him up until the boat came back to pick us up."

It was an encounter with some South Florida wildlife in Kindley's early years that caused some panic of his own.

"From the age of 4-14, I was down in Miami every summer," Kindley said. "My dad's side of the family is from South Florida but I'm from Jacksonville, so I spent my summers in Miami."

Kindley stayed at his aunt's home in the summers. Despite the popularity of mangos with every meal because of the accessibility to the fruit, he wasn't privy with what differentiated a good mango from a bad one.

One morning, Kindley's aunt asked him to go fetch a mango from the tree in the backyard.

"One summer I was down at my auntie's house and she tells me to grab a mango from the backyard," Kindley said. "I'm facing the tree, and remember I'm young so I don't know how the mango is supposed to look. I turn back around to call my auntie to see if I grabbed a good mango, and as soon as I turn back around, the biggest iguana I've ever seen is in my face. I tell you what, I'm never picking a mango again because I almost had a heart attack."

Fortunately for Kindley and the Dolphins, he survived the less-than-ferocious iguana encounter. Years later, he would make his NFL debut against the New England Patriots.

Kindley talked about the blessing that it is to suit up for an NFL debut.

"I'm blessed for the opportunity, a dream come true," Kindley said. "I've dreamed about playing in the NFL since I was a toddler. To get my first game and my first start, it just let me know that my work paid off, but now it's time to work harder."

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