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Daniels taking in Pro Bowl week


Owen Daniels is getting used to life as a Pro Bowler in the beautiful setting of Oahu.

KAPOLEI, Hawaii - As an alternate playing in his first Pro Bowl, tight end Owen Daniels is one of the most anonymous players participating in the annual all-star game.

Well, at least he was one of the lesser known players. It took less than a day for that to change. When Daniels walked out to the practice field Tuesday, he was the only player without a helmet.

In hindisght, Daniels laughs about the experience. Call it a rite of passage for the rookie Pro Bowler.

"I was a first alternate, got added late coming in, some guys know me, some guys maybe don't know me, and I'm out there practicing with a hat on when everyone else has helmets on," Daniels said smiling. "I felt a little bit like a scrub for a second, but I got through it, did everything and was fine and I got my helmet today. So far, so good."

After learning about his Pro Bowl selection last Wednesday, Daniels has been on a whirlwind schedule. He flew to Hawaii on Monday from Las Vegas, where he watched the Super Bowl. On Thursday, his mom, dad, sister and brothers will arrive in Honolulu to enjoy the festivities with him.

Daniels still smiles about how his family reacted when he told them about his Pro Bowl invitation.

"My mom was screaming," he said. "I stole my dad away from work for a second. He was super excited. My sister and brothers were all really pumped up for me. To be able to have a chance to invite them out and pay for their trips, they're all super grateful, super excited to get out here Thursday. We're going to have a good time."

Though he admitted to being nervous before leaving for Hawaii, Daniels is acclimating to life as a Pro Bowler quite well. One thing he learned quickly is that his room number is sacred. Veterans often try to charge meals, drinks and other expenses to the rooms of first-year Pro Bowlers, so Daniels always watches his back before entering his hotel room at the idyllic Ko Olina Resort.

All jokes aside, Daniels says the atmosphere is "laid back" and everyone is out to have a good time.

{QUOTE}With 70 catches for 862 yards (12.3 avg.) and two touchdowns in 2008, Daniels' stats compared favorably with the top tight ends in the NFL. That being said, it took an injury to San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates and some helpful campaigning to earn a trip to Hawaii.

As he stood on his balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Daniels said he was extremely appreciative of all the support from his fans. He made sure to mention his teammate, and fellow Pro Bowler, Andre Johnson, who wore a "Vote for Owen" t-shirt during interviews this fall to make sure his tight end got the recognition that he deserved.

"First of all, 'Dre wearing that t-shirt in all of his interviews and trying to get my name out there meant a lot," Daniels said. "Coming from a player like him, he's a great teammate.

"Obviously, he's a guy that deserves to be out here every year. He was trying to get some recognition for his teammate, so I appreciate him doing that for me. It's great to have some familiarity, some guys you know, some guys you're friends with out here. So to have Mario (Williams) and Andre out here, it makes the experience that much better."

Besides Williams and Johnson, Daniels knows Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas, a two-time Pro Bowler that played with Daniels at the University of Wisconsin. On Tuesday night, Daniels had dinner with Thomas and Browns long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, a former Rice Owl.

"I've known Joe since I was 19 years old," Daniels said. "We were teammates together at Wisconsin and played together for four years at Wisconsin. To have someone you went to school with and played ball with in college is cool. We're good enough friends to be able to hang out and talk about old college stuff. He's just another familiar face here."

Playing with current and former teammates has provided a nice comfort level for Daniels, who also is taking the opportunity to learn from players that he's admired for a long time.

Lining up behind Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, a 10-time Pro Bowler, is a perfect chance for Daniels to pick up tips from one of the all-time greats at the position.

"Amazing," Daniels said of playing with Gonzalez. "He's a Hall of Fame player and he's been doing this for a long time and doing it well for a long time. To be able to play with him and learn from him is such a great experience for me this week. It's been awesome. Hopefully, we'll have some fun in the game together."

In the meantime, Daniels is taking in the sites and looking forward to the arrival of family and friends. Yesterday, he played golf at his hotel and enjoyed the fruits of his labors by relaxing poolside with some of his teammates. It's a lifestyle that Daniels could get used to quite easily.

"I was thinking exactly that walking to practice," Daniels said. "I'm like, 'I don't ever want to miss this. I don't ever want to miss out on this ever again.' So there's definitely going to be some added motivation along the way with this vision that I'm experiencing right now in my mind the whole time."

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