SAN ANTONIO — Trent Headley couldn't resist.
After feeding fish and Jello treats to a dolphin at SeaWorld on Monday morning, Headley was curious how that Jello actually tasted.
"It tasted a little salty, a little fishy, but it's a good protein," the Colorado linebacker said. "It was not good."
Despite the bad taste of the treat, Headley and four other Buffs — kicker Diego Gonzalez, linebacker Derek McCartney, safety Jaisen Sanchez and receiver Juwann Winfree — had a unique opportunity to enjoy some time at SeaWorld before the park was open to the public.
Leading up to Thursday's Valero Alamo Bowl, the players from CU and a handful of Oklahoma State players swam with dolphins and had a chance to ride the Steel Eel roller coaster.
Game preparation prevented CU's main players from attending, so the Buffs sent five players who are out for the season with injuries. It gave the group an opportunity to enjoy the bowl experience, even though they can't play in the game.
"We all want to be out there on the field, but some things happen," said Winfree, who missed the entire season with a knee injury. "The fact that they took us here was pretty amazing."
Headley, a junior who has been out with a shoulder injury this season, said the trip to SeaWorld, "is still rewarding in its own right."
The players were fascinated with the interaction they had with the dolphins. Then it came time for the Steel Eel. Gonzalez had no interest in the ride, but the others rode the coaster twice.
"I don't like it, but I had a lot of fun, so it worked out," McCartney said.
CU running Phillip Lindsay had two cousins — Gabe and Tony Lindsay — play at Oklahoma State in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
Phillip said he wasn't necessarily an Oklahoma State fan growing up, but, "I definitely watched my cousins every Saturday. I still have my cousin's jersey hanging in my room because he's one of my biggest role models and he was sweet back in the day."
Phillip said Thursday's game will mean a lot to him because Gabe and Tony will be in attendance. Tony quarterbacked Oklahoma State in the 1997 Alamo Bowl.
On the mend
Winfree, a transfer from Coffeyville Community College, was expected to be a top receiver for the Buffs before injuring his knee in August. He said Monday that his recovery is going well.
"They said I'm moving pretty fast in recovering, so they feel I'll be back in spring — not fully though," he said.
Winfree said the injury was tough mentally at first, but believes he's making the most of the setback.
"The positive is that I'm able to grow as a person and grow as a man, and on the field as well," he said. "There's many positives to being hurt, although it's not what I wanted."
Head coach Mike MacIntyre said the Buffs are fairly healthy going into the game on Thursday. He's confident if the Buffs' depth is tested, however. "People have stepped up even when they thought they weren't going to play much and stepped up and played well," he said. "We'll definitely need that in this bowl game." ... On Monday afternoon, all the Buffs had a chance to return to SeaWorld and spend time in the park.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.