Aloha from Arizona...just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?
The Pro Bowl is back on the mainland for the first time in five years. I was at that one too. In Miami. And the Texans were there in good numbers. Matt Schaub won the game's MVP award, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing and Mario Williams played. And Andre Johnson made one of his seven Pro Bowl squads.
That was also coming off a 9-7 year. A year that the players thought should have been a lot better. They missed two game-tying field goals at the buzzer and had the ball at the goal line late with a chance to tie two other games and came up short.
Fast forward to now.
J.J. Watt and Duane Brown are the two Texans participants. The team was 9-7. And they did it with four quarterbacks, coming off a 2-14 season. It wasn't the year they ultimately wanted but it was a solid start to the Bill O'Brien era.
Even though there are only two Texans here, this event has a strong Houston feel. Connor Barwin, Glover Quin and Mario Williams join Watt on the Team Carter (Chris Carter's squad) defense.
With Barwin and Quin in this game, that means the 2011 Texans defense had eight players who had either been or were someday going to the Pro Bowl.
Of course cap issues and other factors contributed to ultimate break up of that unit. But in the Pro Bowl draft, Watt told me he was happy to "get the band back together."
Former Texans assistants Rick Dennison and Brian Pariani are playing out their last days on the Baltimore staff helping John Harbaugh coach Team Carter before making their way to Denver to join Gary Kubiak. Duane Brown called the Team Carter playbook "very familiar."
Watt and Brown don't take this experience for granted. J.J. talked about how special it is to be around all the players and be captain of one of the squads. Brown expressed his appreciation for going to his third straight Pro Bowl after he got done signing hundreds of autographs for military personnel following practice at Luke Air Force base.
The day one weather was hardly vacation worthy. Wind chill temps dropped into the 40s in the morning as a 25mph breeze lifted the curtain on the first practice.
But there was no stopping the players from having fun with each other and thanking the men and women who serve our country in the Pro Bowl tradition of staging a military-only practice to kick off the weekend, whether it's in Hawaii or on the mainland.
No matter what your opinion is of the Pro Bowl, the NFL is giving the people what they want. The game is a sell out and will once again generate TV ratings that challenge or beat championship television audiences in other pro sports.
Duane Brown and J.J. Watt are representing Houston at the 2015 Pro Bowl in Arizona.