News: Fantasy meets reality for fans during all-stars’ practice
Story by Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM — Service members and their families lined a security fence anxiously awaiting National Football League Pro Bowl all-stars to begin their practice, Jan. 23.
The all-star teams selected by Deion “Prime Time” Sanders and Jerry Rice held their practices, here, before signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.
This year, the NFL changed the game by creating a fantasy football style match-up by making the two all-pro teams non-conference affiliated.
The Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, said the new rules were a welcomed change. Soldiers also expressed their excitement.
“It was great seeing my Colts out there, Andrew Luck in particular,” said Lt. Col. Antonio Copeland, human resource officer, 18th Medical Command. “This event is really special. It’s like the players are giving back to us. It’s great that they came all the way out here for us.”
While the NFL hasn’t made a final decision if the Pro Bowl will return to Hawaii in 2015, the players said they enjoy Hawaii.
“It’s an honor to be here in Hawaii playing in a game with my peers,” Luck said. “It’s great to be here supporting what the Soldiers do and giving a little back to them. We talk about it a lot in the locker room. It’s just a great feeling to be here.”
Even though the Pro-Bowlers thanked the service members, one player felt a strong bond with the soldiers on the field.
First-time Pro-Bowler Branden Albert, an offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, thanked the service members and the fans for the warm reception. He credits most of his success to the discipline he received at Hargrave Military Academy.
“I really didn’t see myself being out here,” he said. “It’s been a long road for me, but now that I’m here, it makes me hungry for more. This right here makes me want to work harder, so I can keep coming back.”
After both practices, the coaches and players reflected on what it meant to play in the Pro Bowl and the challenges they faced to get to the game.
“It’s an honor, and it’s very humbling to be out here,” said Chuck Pagano, head coach for the Indianapolis Colts. “We don’t take anything for granted. It’s not a right; it’s a privilege to be here.
“To be able to come out to the base and spend time over here with true warriors, true servants, it’s just a privilege,” Pagano added. “We talk about serving all the time. What these guys do for us, we wouldn’t even be able to play this game without them.”