Fantasy meets reality for NFL fans
January 28, 2014
- To be able to come out to the base and spend time over here with true warriors, true servants, it's just a privilege.
- It's great to be here supporting what the Soldiers do and giving a little back to them.
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- 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 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam before signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.
This year, the NFL changed-up 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 for the 18th Medical Command. "In all though, 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 Kansas City Chiefs, thanked the service members and the fans for the warm reception. But he warrants 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."
He credited Hargrave Academy for helping him to get to where he is today."
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 said. "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."