Aloha! I am in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl activities this week, courtesy of USAA, the official Military Appreciation Sponsor of the NFL. We will be at a lot of activities with the players and hope to provide some good stories this week. I am thankful to be here for my first trip to the Islands. While many of the NFL writers are in Mobile this week updating you on exactly how much somebody weighs, I get to watch many of the best players in the game interact with each other and with fans. (Add in that I have been to Mobile, and I think I am winning here).
During the football season, players travel with their teams to games, often in chartered situations, or with a team bus ready to whisk the group away en masse. For the Pro Bowl, though, players trickle in on flights, and arrive just like the rest of us. Several players were on my flight, and let me tell you, after an eight hour flight where they showed Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, the last thing you are in the mood for is a crowd.
We exited the plane, and our walk through terminal gates was very laid back. You could see the mountains in the background, the palm trees outside. A giant Pro Bowl sign welcomed us down toward the end of the terminal, but it was pretty quiet and deserted by airport standards. Then, as we walked through the sliding doors into the baggage claim area, chaos broke out. Here’s the crowd that suddenly surrounded Vikings rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson just ahead of me. We’ve finally found a way to slow one of the fastest men in the NFL down.
Kyle Williams of the Buffalo Bills came in closely behind, and put down his little child and began signing lots of autographs. Jason Hatcher of the Dallas Cowboys (below) signed some autographs while he was standing around the baggage claim waiting to get his bags. The picture at the top is Patterson getting surrounded again, just a few feet away from me, while we were waiting for the bags. I’m pretty sure he is wondering who the creep taking his photo is. Mahalo, Cordarrelle.
I hope to bring you some inside access to players and coaches over the next few days. Some of what we have planned to attend:
- On Wednesday morning–well, for those of you working in the continental U.S., more like afternoon–we will be with the players at a couple of different community events, a visit to the Military Mural Project at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, and a Play 60 event at a local elementary school. (Looking forward to seeing which real-life kid talks smack to Cam Newton).
- On Wednesday afternoon, we will be at the build up and broadcast of the Pro Bowl Draft, where Team Deion and Team Jerry Rice will divide up, and we anxiously await the last person selected (going punter in my pool).
- On Thursday, we will be at the team practices for both of the Pro Bowl teams. I’m sure these will be grueling.