Miami Dolphins linebacker Mike Rivera might want to get back to football, but the NFL lockout is allowing him plenty of time to crochet.
"People say 'crochet, isn't that something old ladies do?'" said Rivera, who is highlighted in this video. "Football is masculine and testosterone driven, but I think it shows you can do other things and be well rounded."
Rivera picked up the hobby on a trip to Guatemala, where a former classmate was teaching. His first attempt at a stocking cap took 15 hours, but soon he mastered the skills needed and started cranking out hats in about an hour. After returning from Guatemala he visited his friend Mike Harrity, a Kansas associate athletic director in charge of community outreach, and presented a tiny crocheted hat as gift for his baby daughter, Grace.
"It looked like something you'd walk into the mall and pay $25 for because baby stuff is expensive," Harrity said.
Harrity knows a good thing when he sees it. And he's helping to keep Rivera, who played on KU's 2008 Orange Bowl team, busy during the NFL lockout. He helped Rivera get in touch with the local Boys and Girls Club and earlier this month the linebacker began teaching crochet to 8- and 9-year-olds at Hillcrest Elementary in Lawrence, Kan.
The 250-pound linebacker, who prefers backwards caps and jeans to helmets and pads, is nimble with the needles.
On a recent visit to Hillcrest Elementary School, Rivera brought a special guest -- his mother, Judy, who brought treats for the kids. He introduced himself simply as "Michael."
It took his students nearly two days to realize that they were learning a craft traditionally taught in home economics from a professional football player.
"Football is just something he does, and does really well, but it's never defined who he is," Harrity said. "He's always used football as a platform to help the next generation of folks."
Rivera, who doesn't watch TV or play video games, spends most of the time he's not working out volunteering in the community and said he's considered setting up a website to sell his hats as a side project and thinks he will end up in teaching when his football career is over.
"I love being able to see the growth in a young kid," Rivera said. "He starts somewhere and learns some things and you see the improvement. It's just something I know I want to do at some point in my life."