Altitude adjustment |

Altitude adjustment

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis ColtsIndianapolis Colts offensive lineman Mike Tepper (67) blocks against Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Michael Bennett during a game earlier this season.

A summer packed with runs up Hanging Lake Trail and long rafting trips down Colorado rivers left Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Mike Tepper in prime shape entering his first full season in the National Football League.

And a successful campaign it’s been.

The University of California alum, who’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 323 pounds on the Colts’ roster, is contributing as a member of the active squad.

With the NFL mired in a lockout at the time, Tepper spent his summer working as a raft guide for Glenwood Adventure Company/Lakota Guides. He came to Glenwood Springs to visit his longtime friend, David Kinne, and wound up working roughly two months as a raft guide alongside his best friend.

The intensely physical nature of the job served as training for the 2011 season.

“Being on the river for five or six hours a day definitely helped my upper body strength and cardiovascular fitness,” Tepper said by phone on Tuesday. “Getting out and running, going to Hanging Lake, trying to stay in shape … the altitude kicked by butt. It got me in shape. I literally came down from Colorado to Indianapolis and felt ready to go.”

After starting the season on the Colts’ practice squad, the hard-working lineman saw game action for the first time in the regular season in an Oct. 3 game at Tampa Bay. He’s logged playing time in each of the Colts’ last three games, starting the last two Sundays at the guard spots.

“It’s really been a dream come true,” Tepper said. “I’ve enjoyed every second of it. All the work’s definitely paid off, but there’s still a lot more work ahead.”

Tepper’s summer boss, Glenwood Adventure Company owner Ken Murphy, isn’t surprised by his former employee’s success.

“His work ethic, I haven’t seen anyone match it,” Murphy lauded. “He didn’t need the summer job. It was an experience for him. He was there when I was opening up and he was there when I’d leave. If he put that same energy into his football career, you could see him being very successful.”

Murphy said that “Big Mike” – Tepper’s nickname around the shop – also left an impression with his affable, unassuming demeanor.

“He has no ego,” Murphy said. “He’s just a big guy. When he tells you he plays in the NFL, you can see him being a player, but he doesn’t go out there and tell everybody.”

Murphy has fielded numerous questions from his clientele about Tepper’s progress as a player.

“A few families he took out rafting have asked me how he’s doing,” Murphy said. “There are definitely a few local people following Mike’s career.”

Including Murphy’s own daughters.

“They have no interest in football whatsoever, but even they’re paying attention to how the Colts are doing,” he said. “It’s pretty interesting. My 7-year-old daughter’s looking on TV and asking how Big Mike is doing.”

Kinne and a group of fellow Glenwood Adventure Company employees have already flown out to Indianapolis to take in one of Tepper’s games. Murphy hopes to do the same as soon as his schedule permits.

Tepper clearly left his mark on Colorado, and Colorado certainly reciprocated. The California native is even talking about a vacation home in the mountains.

“If home is California, then a vacation home is definitely Carbondale,” he said. “Maybe a little bit higher, but not Aspen. That’s too hoity-toity. I need something out in the mountains with a good view of the weather.”

Tepper has plenty to keep him occupied before purchasing any mountain vacation homes, though. Right now, he’s busy trying to establish himself as an NFL player.

“The speed, tempo is all so fast, but it’s exciting to be a part of it,” he said. “I’m starting to get used to it all. I’m just excited to be where I am right now, to be able to play in the National Football League.”

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