Much like the rivers that his rafts float down, Ken Murphy's adventure company is roaring this summer in Glenwood Springs.
"We've got a great crew," Murphy, the owner of Glenwood Adventure Company, said.
This summer, he is partnering with Lakota Guides to bring people down the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers. And, he is the first to admit that his business would not be this successful if it was not for his staff. "They work hard all day on the river in the sun and having fun with the guests."
He started the company about a year and a half ago and has a simple formula when it comes to new hires. "They are all athletic, they love being around each other," he explained. "And, when my crew is happy, the guest will be, too."
His staff consists of a Division 1 college rower, lacrosse player, a few high school athletes including a state wrestling champ, and personal trainers. "Each employee loves the outdoors and is in really good shape," he said.
In addition to that impressive list, he has also got a professional football player working for him this year.
"Mike is great. If you've seen his work ethic like I have, there's no question about why he's been so successful in life," Murphy said.
The man's name is Mike Tepper. He's a 25-year-old offensive lineman currently signed to a 'Futures' contract with the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League..
He previously played six years at the University of California, Berkeley. He also spent five months with the Dallas Cowboys after signing as an un-drafted free agent. But, on the final day of cuts, he was let go by the team. "I wouldn't trade that experience for anything," Tepper said. "It was so much fun."
Two weeks after being cut, the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League came calling. Tepper took an offer to finish out their season, "I was playing with Daunte Culpepper out there."
In January, he was signed to his current contract with the Colts and is awaiting the start of the NFL season. "Next Monday, I should be reporting for the first preseason game."
Instead, a work stoppage is helping Tepper trade his cleats in for a set of ores where he has landed in Glenwood Springs. "The altitude is just kicking my butt," he said. "We paddle for about two hours twice a day and then I'll do regular gym stuff on top of that."
The story started when his best friend, David Kinne, invited him to Colorado for a week of vacation. "I said, "Hey, since you've got nothing else going on, you should come out here and I'll train you to be a bigger guy and maybe get you some work," Kinne explained.
"So, I came out to Glenwood Springs in June and fell in love with the place and everything we were doing," Tepper continued.
All it took was a couple of trips down the river and Tepper was hooked. That is when he asked Kinne's boss for a job. "What do you think if I hung around a little bit longer and worked here," he asked of Murphy.
"I was like, 'Yeah, let's do it,'" Murphy remembered thinking.
A job at the adventure company meant Tepper would have to complete 75 hours of rafting training along with CPR and other courses. It took him two weeks to get certified and he has been guiding ever since. "I'm just excited to get out there with the customers," he said.
Even though he works nearly every day, Tepper insists that he is still getting a good workout in. To stay in shape, he often runs the Hanging Lake trail, squats the boat trailer, lifts single boats, and does pull-ups. "We always give him a hard time because he only can do about one and a half of those," Murphy said.
Around the shop, he will help out with any job that he is needed for. "He does hummer tours, rafting, bike tours, and really anything we need him to do," Murphy said. "He's got no ego."
Despite towering at 6'6" and 330 pounds, Murphy is not afraid to pay and treat Tepper like any other employee. "Last Sunday, he was knee deep in Pine-Sol and water washing the life vests and booties. He gets stuck just like everybody else," he explained. "Early this morning, he was at the train station picking up guests with me at 2:00 am and still showed up to work at 7:15 am."
But, the clock is ticking. A labor deal between NFL players and owners could end the lockout at any time. Tepper would have to leave for preseason activities as soon as possible. "Once I get that phone call to head out, I will inform [Murphy] of the situation. He knows it's coming," Tepper said. "I'm loving spending time with friends, but I'm ready to get back to football. The NFL is my first priority."
That's why he is enjoying every minute that he has in Colorado. "I'm glad he got some time with me," Kinne said of his best friend. "I don't know when I will ever have a month with him again. This summer has really been like old times and I'm going to miss him."
"I've learned a lot about him and I have more appreciation for the NFL," Murphy said. "You always hear about the big egos and most of the bad stuff in the NFL, and then you find out that there are people like [Tepper] playing the same game. More of these people should be highlighted."
Tepper has enjoyed his time in Glenwood Springs so much that he fully intends to come back as a river guide next summer. "Usually we get a few weeks off from our teams and I'd like to come out and run the river with these guys for at least a week."
"Hopefully he does come back because we would love to have him," Murphy said. "I always joke with him that maybe he should bring the entire Indianapolis Colts' offensive line with him, though."