For hardcore football fans, it doesn’t get much better than the NFL Pro Bowl. And for the NFL players themselves, there’s no better place to hold this all-star game than Honolulu, Oahu.
As perennial Pro Bowl player and future Hall of Famer Reggie White once noted, “I can’t imagine (the game) ever being played anywhere else.”
The Pro Bowl is the National Football League’s all-star showcase pitting top stars from the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). Held the week after the Super Bowl, the nationally televised exhibition has been played in Honolulu since 1980.
For Hawaii sports fans, the Pro Bowl is a chance to see football’s finest performers perform at 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium in Halawa. The list of past MVPs reads like a “who’s who: in the sport’s all-time annals: Lee Roy Selmon, Kellen Winslow, Dan Fouts, Joe Theismann, Phil Simms, Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Marshall Faulk, Randy Moss, Rich Gannon and others.
Other players who have participated include gridiron legends like Walter Payton, Lawrence Taylor, Howie Long, Ronnie Lott, Rod Woodson, Mike Singletary, Marcus Allen, Earl Campbell, Herschel Walker, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Joe Montana and more.
The games are usually high-scoring affairs. The 2004 contest, for example, the NFC defeated the AFC in a 55-52 thriller. Marc Bulger of the St. Louis Rams was the game’s MVP, throwing a Pro Bowl record four touchdown passes.
The game itself is the climax to a weeklong slate of special Pro Bowl events. There are also autograph signings, special appearances by the NFL cheerleaders, Pro Bowl parties and other activities for the public.
Every few years or so, there’s talk of letting another U.S. city host the Pro Bowl. Ask the people who participate in the event, however, and they’ll say the game belongs in the Aloha State.
“We enjoy being around the people of Oahu,” Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid told a Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter. “If the NFL came back here every year, I think there would be a lot of people, in particular the players, who would be happy.”
Added New York Jets center Kevin Mawae, who is part Hawaiian: “If God could make someplace this beautiful, think heaven is like.”