POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 1:50 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
Some guys have to wait years for the call.
Others, not nearly that long.
But that first Pro Bowl selection tends to resonate in either case.
"It wasn't a long flight at all," Denver wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said of his first Pro Bowl trip to Hawaii. "It was a dream come true. There've been so many dreams coming true in my life. Getting a scholarship to college, getting drafted, making a roster and then making the Pro Bowl."
Lloyd was selected to the NFL's annual all-star fest after his eighth year in the league and is among 20 first-timers on the AFC roster.
Given the game's pre-Super Bowl slot, participating in the Pro Bowl means falling short of the ultimate dream.
Even so, the trip to Hawaii remains enticing as the game makes its return to Aloha Stadium on Sunday after a year in Miami.
"This is where the game belongs," said Lloyd, who had the longest wait among the AFC newcomers. "Ever since I was a child and you dream about being in the Pro Bowl, you think about it being in Hawaii. Period, hands down."
While the AFC roster includes a few mainstays in Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, here for his 12th Pro Bowl, and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (11 selections), nearly half of the team that took part in yesterday's practice at Kapolei High School was soaking in that first experience.
"I watched it (growing up), and I wanted to be here," Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles said. "I watched other people and wondered, 'Why can't I be up in there? All it takes is hard work.' I go out there and prepare myself in the offseason and work hard to be here.
"It's a trip and a beautiful place. I'm loving every bit of it."
Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty earned a selection in his first year of service as did Chiefs safety Eric Berry and Titans kick returner Marc Mariani. Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey also was selected to the team, but was scratched when the Steelers secured a spot in the Super Bowl.
"It's a big deal being out there as a rookie," said McCourty, who tied for second in the league with seven interceptions in his first year out of Rutgers.
"It's the same as far as lining up on the field. But then you have Ray Lewis up there calling out signals."
Fourth-year Oakland tight end Zach Miller's first Pro Bowl appearance will be his second in Aloha Stadium. He ended his career at Arizona State by playing in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl to close the 2006 season.
"At that time, I was just having fun. I wasn't even thinking about (returning for the Pro Bowl)," Miller said. "But it is cool to be back here four years later. It's a similar type feeling, being a bowl week."
Along with mixing with players from around the league, the Pro Bowl offers players a chance to work with a different set of coaches, with the AFC led by Bill Belichick and the Patriots staff.
"He's so well known, so to get a chance to see him coach and how he operates is pretty cool," Miller said.
With practices generally lasting a little more than an hour, the players have some downtime to fill.
Lloyd and Miller talked about doing some surfing, and Charles hoped to visit Pearl Harbor during his stay.
Lloyd, who already sampled kalua pork and cabbage, added, "I'm going to eat as many local dishes as possible."