With stars bowing out, Pro Bowl rookies excited for shot at NFL' - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

With stars bowing out, Pro Bowl rookies excited for shot at NFL's all-star game

Rams running back Todd Gurley Rams running back Todd Gurley
Raiders receiver Amari Cooper Raiders receiver Amari Cooper
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

When the NFL Pro Bowl kicks off on Sunday afternoon in Honolulu, more than 40 of the league's initial all-star selections will not be in Honolulu for the game.

Many, including Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Broncos linebacker Von Miller, won't attend because of the Super Bowl. Others, like Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, opted not to participate in the game because of lingering injuries.  

The absence of some of the league's most familiar faces has provided an opportunity for players like Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper to experience the NFL's all-star event.

"Everybody dreams of coming to Hawaii, just to be selected as one of the great players in the league," said Cooper. "To play against them, to practice with them, and just to talk to them, to be around them, is just a great feeling."

Of the Raiders five Pro Bowl players, only defensive stalwart Khalil Mack and cornerback Charles Woodson were voted in as initial selections. Quarterback Derek Carr and running back Latavius Murray joined Cooper as alternates. 

"It's a blessing to be a part of this, hopefully for years to come," said Mack. "Means a lot to me and my family. Hard work pays off." 

Rams running back Todd Gurley, who was among the NFL's initial selections to the game, knows as much about hard work as anyone; 12 months ago, prior to being drafted, he was still working to rehab a knee injury that forced him to miss the end of the 2014 college football season.

"My main goal was just to get back on the field," Gurley said, when asked whether he thought then that playing in the Pro Bowl was a possibility. "I wasn't worrying about the stats and the accolades. My biggest thing was trying to get my knee right, get back on the field. I'm grateful I was able to do what I was able to do."

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston agreed, saying the success of the NFL's young stars is a result of work ethic, not of youth.

"It just shows that age doesn't really matter," said Winston. "I think when we're put in spots, instantly, whether we're prepared or not, we have to go out there and go compete. I think it's very important for the young guys back at home to tell them, hey, you can do anything you put your mind to."

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