BOSTON (CBS) — The job of an NFL offensive lineman is to protect his quarterback, so there wasn’t a lot of running involved for Ryan Wendell throughout his eight-year career.
Sure, there were sprints in training camp and he would occasionally have to jog up to five yards, but running was never really his forte. He would much rather block a fellow 300-pounder than run.
But all of that has changed now that the 32-year-old is done keeping Tom Brady on his feet. The former New England Patriot and Super Bowl champ is getting ready for a 26.2 mile run from Hopkinton to Boston on Marathon Monday. Once a 6-foot-2, 305-pound behemoth, you may not recognize Wendell when he races (or trots) by on Monday. He’s dropped 45 pounds while training for this year’s race, which included a 20-mile run last weekend.
“My wife had to take care of me the whole next day, but I did it,” Wendell told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton. “I’m getting a bad feeling in my stomach. I was really naive about my ability to do this marathon thing.”
Wendell had discussed running the marathon before, which was promptly dismissed by one of his coaches inside Gillette Stadium.
“[Strength and Conditioning coach] Moses Cabrera said there is no way that I — an offensive lineman — could do it,” recalled Wendell. “The second he said that I told him I would do it the year after I was done playing. He shook my hand and said ‘no way.'”
But Wendell isn’t just doing this to prove a former coach wrong. He’s out to help another former Patriot, running to support The Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which raises money to help families battle cancer. Andruzzi, a cancer survivor himself, has helped hundreds of families over the years, and Wendell said it was a “no-brainer” to get involved. Now that he’s done with football, he’s eager to tackle the challenge of running the Boston Marathon.
“You can’t be in New England without being overcome with the excitement this town has for the marathon,” said Wendell.
Andruzzi, who enjoyed a nine-year NFL career as an O-lineman, didn’t have much advice for Wendell when he told him he wanted to join the team.
“He laughed at me. His advice was, ‘Don’t do it,'” Wendell remembers fondly. “Joe is going to be at the finish line eating pizza, laughing at me the whole way.”
The Andruzzis won’t be the only ones supporting Wendell on race day. Ryan’s wife, Meredith, and their 5-month-old daughter, Callie, will be waiting at the finish line. Meredith was shocked when her husband told her he wanted to run the marathon, but has all the faith in the world that he’ll cross that finish line on Monday.
“I was like, ‘You’ve never run more than 20 yards in your life.’ I didn’t know what he was thinking,” she chuckled. “But at the same time, he can kind of do anything. He’s one of those people that anything works for him athletically when he puts his mind to it. And once I found out he and [Cabrera] had this challenge, I knew he’d definitely make it happen.”
Wendell knows there will be plenty of challenges during his 26.2 mile journey. But like any good football player (or marathoner), he’s scouted the route and even has a game plan for when he reaches the famous Heartbreak Hill.
“I’m going to start walking, talking to people. I’ll make it seem that I was so overcome by having a good time that I just want to hang out and talk,” he joked. “I’ll sell it really, really good, but inside I’ll be dying.”
It’s great to see Wendell still has his sense of humor, and his competitive drive hasn’t left either.
“I want to be the second-to-last person; I want to beat somebody so I can turn around and gloat as I cross that finish line,” he said. “I just want to beat somebody so I can hold that over their head.”