HONOLULU –The AFC lost 55-41, but Texans running back Arian Foster and fullback Vonta Leach walked away from the 2011 Pro Bowl with nothing but good memories.
The two first-time Pro Bowlers both started for the AFC on Sunday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 49,331 at Aloha Stadium.
"It was fun, man, being around the guys, All-Pro players, to see how they work and see how they just conduct themselves as professionals," Foster said. "I'm just glad I could be a part of it."
There was a light rain in the stadium in the first half as the NFC stormed out to a 42-0 lead. NFC players earned $45,000 apiece for winning, while the AFC players went home with a not-too-shabby $22,500.
"It was a good game," said Leach, who flew 12 family members and friends out to Hawaii this week. "We got off to a slow start. Wish we could've did a whole lot better – I came out in the red as far as money-wise – but it was a good experience to be on the field with a lot of these guys and a lot of pros out here, a lot of top guys in the NFL.
"I picked a lot of guys' brains, talked to them just about being a pro, just about how to win and things like that. You take a lot from this."
Foster finished with three carries for 13 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He also had two catches for nine yards. Leach played throughout as the lone fullback on the AFC roster and recovered a fumble that Foster lost in the first quarter. He and Foster also both played on the kickoff return team.
"We had a hell of a week, a hell of a year, and it was real fun just to be out here," Leach said. "I enjoyed it, and hopefully we get more wins net year and we play in the Super Bowl (and) we won't have to be here."
All of Foster's touches came on the AFC's first drive of the game. He got the ball on four consecutive plays and totaled 22 yards, showcasing the skill-set that made him the league leader in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in 2010. He also pitched the ball back to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on a flea flicker, the result of which was an incomplete pass.
On the next play, Foster fumbled at the NFC 43-yard line after a five-yard carry up the middle. Leach was there to pounce on the ball at the 41, but the drive ended two plays later with a turnover on downs.
The AFC's next two drives ended quickly with interceptions by Rivers. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles then replaced Foster to start the second quarter. The AFC committed three more turnovers in the first half, keeping their offense off the field and helping the NFC take a 42-7 halftime lead.
Foster went back in the game intermittently in the second half, but he didn't get any more touches with the AFC focused on passing to try to make up ground.
Leach opened up holes for Foster, Charles and Titans running back Chris Johnson, helping the AFC average 6.0 yards per carry on 22 attempts (132 yards). The normally hard-hitting fullback did exercise a bit of discretion on Sunday against his NFC opponents.
"Obviously, your main objective in this game is you want to win, but also you want to stay healthy," he said. "You don't want to get nobody hurt in an all-star game, so we came out here and we just gave the fans a little show."
The Pro Bowl was the culmination of a breakthrough season for Foster, who was selected to every major All-NFL team one year after going undrafted. He has a simple plan for not letting all of the postseason accolades get to his head.
"Don't listen to them," he said.
Leach was thankful about the support he got from Texans fans and his teammates with his "Leach to the Beach" Pro Bowl campaign.
"It makes you feel good," he said. "The fans supported me, my teammates a lot of players and coaches. I appreciate that, and I thank them."