Cort Dennison likely won’t find himself in this position again. Then again, not many people get the opportunity to pet a beluga whale and get a kiss on the cheek from the huge mammal.
As part of the Alamo Bowl fun and festivities, Dennison and several Huskies seniors Monday joined players from Baylor at the San Antonio SeaWorld for some fun with the trained animals.
“It’s an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life,” Dennison said.
The linebacker and fellow seniors Devin Aguilar, Jermaine Kearse, Kiel Rasp, Will Mahan and Brendan Lopez all got to don wet suits and interact with four beluga whales.
So what did a whale feel like?
“Slimy, nasty and fat,” Dennison said, adding that he wasn’t frightened to be near the hulking mammals.
“If it was a killer whale, I wouldn’t have gotten in the pool,” he said. “But these were all pretty friendly animals.”
The size of the animal astounded Dennison.
“You really take notice of their size when you see them in person,” he said. “It’s one thing to see them on TV on the Discovery Channel. But when you get up close, you get up and see how unique and special they are.”
While one group of seniors were playing with whales, seniors Alameda Ta’amu and Senio Kelemete were hanging out with a gigantic male walrus named Taneka.
A native of Puget Sound, Ta’amu had seen seals but had never been up close to a walrus. “It smells like fish because all it does is eat fish and lay around,” Ta’amu said.
Ta’amu, a large man of 335 pounds, was awed by the size of his new friend.
“It’s a big old blob,” he said. “I had to lay next to it and I was afraid of it rolling over on me. It’s 2,000 pounds. It’s huge.”
Ta’amu and Kelemete competed in a sit-up contest against Taneka.
“I was struggling with my sit-ups actually,” Ta’amu said.
The entire Huskies team visited SeaWorld on Christmas Eve. The Huskies went to the San Antonio Spurs-Memphis Grizzlies game Monday night, where former UW standout Quincy Pondexter was playing for Memphis. Tonight’s festivities include a pep rally and dinner at Rudy’s barecue.
PRICE OF FAME
Robert Griffin III understands what it means to be famous.
Sure, the Baylor quarterback is popular in Waco. But since winning the Heisman Trophy, he’s become a national celebrity.
“Yeah, life has changed, but the one thing you have to do is make sure it doesn’t change who you are,” he said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do, just try to be as normal as I possibly can when I can be normal, that’s at practice, hanging out with these guys. They definitely keep me sane.”
But away from the field, it’s become difficult. He went to eat in Waco and donned a disguise in hopes of trying to get some peace.
“I went out incognito and tried to hide my identity,” he said. “I got a lot of double takes. If you get a double take, you can walk far enough to discourage them from approaching.”
So how elaborate was the disguise?
“I had a hat and my hair tied up so I didn’t have my hair show,” Griffin said. “And I had glasses on.”
It’s gotten to the point where Baylor officials act as security guards to try to keep his life relatively normal when he’s making appearances.
“I’ve had security, but they try to be as incognito as they possibly can,” Griffin said.
“But life changes, and people are going to want a piece of you when you’re doing great things. It’s a good problem to have.”
Fame has had it’s benefits. When he appeared on the “Late Show with David Letterman” to present the Top 10 list Dec. 12 (“No. 3: Indianapolis Colts, here I come!”), he got to meet movie star Scarlett Johansson, who was also on the show that night.
“Yeah, actually she walked in, I told her that I thought she was beautiful,” he said. “She said, ‘Thank you.’ It was cool. I didn’t want to ask her for a picture because I’m pretty sure she gets hassled to get pictures all the time, so I tried to respect that, but she’s a cool person.”