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AFC falls 30-21 despite O.D.'s score


Tight end Owen Daniels celebrates his nine-yard touchdown with Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

HONOLULU – It might be time to cross off Owen Daniels from your 'sleeper' list at your next fantasy football draft.

In the past 10 days, Daniels has gone from a rising yet under-the-radar talent to quite possibly a household name in the NFL.

Last Thursday, he replaced San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates in the Pro Bowl, and he responded Sunday with two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown in the AFC's 30-21 loss to the NFC at Aloha Stadium.

Although he was considered a reserve in the game, Daniels started when the AFC began in a two-tight end set.

"I had a lot of fun," Daniels said. "We didn't get the victory today, but it was fun being out here with all of the guys playing. I got to make a couple plays and actually got in the end zone, so it's really more than I could ask for."

Late in the second quarter, Daniels dove for a 21-yard catch to the NFC's nine-yard line on a pass from Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins. Seattle Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson and Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson defended on the play.

{QUOTE}On the next snap following a timeout, Daniels burned Peterson again on a nine-yard touchdown reception.

"It was a go route for the outside guy and the inside guy had an out route," Daniels said. "I was on the out and I beat my man and Kerry Collins had a good throw to me."

A restricted free agent, Daniels knows this is a crucial point in his career. To make big plays on national television and prove that he belongs among the best players in the game means a lot to him.

"It feels good," he said. "You have a chance to come out here and you try to prove something and get recognized a little more. It was a good experience and a good opportunity for me."

Perhaps the most symbolic gesture of the Texans' Pro Bowl week came after Daniels caught the touchdown. Once he finished chest-bumping Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall and TORO, Daniels was congratulated by wide receiver Andre Johnson, who ran on the field to exchange a high-five with his teammate.

"That's the type of teammate he is, the type of friend he is," Daniels said. "Being here with those guys (Andre and defensive end Mario Williams) was awesome. Having him come up to me and be happy for me was really cool."

Johnson called Daniels' touchdown his favorite play of the game.

"I am really happy for him," Johnson said. "I was wearing a 'Vote for Owen' t-shirt trying to get him over here and things worked out for him. He's here and he went out and got a couple catches and scored a touchdown."

Johnson, who led the NFL in catches and receiving yards in 2008, started and caught two passes for 29 yards. Only a few passes went his way, and one attempt from Collins was intercepted by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield in the second half.

With 2:06 left in the game and the AFC trailing by six points, neither Johnson nor Daniels entered the game on the four-and-out drive that effectively sealed the NFC's win.

The loss didn't spoil Johnson's Pro Bowl week, though.

"(I had) a lot of fun," Johnson said. "This is something that never gets old and you love to be here every year."

Williams, who started and had two tackles with a quarterback hurry on New York Giants signal-caller Eli Manning, learned from some of the biggest stars in the NFL this past week.

"It was great coming out and being able to play with the guys and run around and just see how guys prepare and how they get ready," he said. "(I enjoyed) being able to meet the guys I've never met and just talk to them about anything – about football, about off-the-field stuff, whatever."

Daniels' Pro Bowl experience exceeded his expectations.

"I was thinking I was going to have a lot of fun, and I had way more fun than I thought I was going to have," he said. "So hopefully they can bring the Pro Bowl back here and I can be back here with them."

Speaking of returning the Pro Bowl to Hawaii, no timetable has been announced officially for a return to Honolulu. Next year, the all-star game will be played in Miami, which is Johnson's hometown.

"You always love Hawaii," Johnson said. "I don't think it will be the same because guys look forward to coming over here and just hanging out with their friends and family and things like that. We'll see how it works out."

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