Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 12:00 a.m.
KAPOLEI, Hawaii - After the AFC's Pro Bowlers posed for the big team picture and the smaller group shots with two Hawaiian dancers on Friday, LaDainian Tomlinson wanted another photo.
"Let's get all the rookies," the San Diego Chargers running back said, referring to the dozen first-time AFC all-stars enjoying their first trips to the Pro Bowl.
But as Tomlinson gathered Chargers teammate Donnie Edwards, Buffalo running back Travis Henry, Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter and New England kicker Adam Vinatieri, he realized a problem.
"There's not enough room to fit everybody," Tomlinson said with a laugh. "OK, forget about it."
Tomlinson won't need photographic proof to remember how much of the NFL's best young talent will be on display Sunday at Aloha Stadium, where first-time Pro Bowlers make up nearly one-third of the rosters. In addition to the AFC's 12 rookies, there are 13 first-timers on the NFC roster.
From Miami running back Ricky Williams to Carolina defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, many of football's brightest young stars got their first chance this week to spend time with their peers and enjoy the perks of NFL stardom. Even the absence of Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, who dropped out last week with a foot injury, hasn't dimmed the importance of this gathering.
"There's a lot of young guys here who are going to coming back for many years to come," said Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez, who's in his fourth Pro Bowl. "The first time you come here, it's an incredible motivation to keep working hard and striving to get back here. It really fuels you.
"If you can't win the Super Bowl, this is the reward for all of your hard work. It's a great feeling to know you're one of the best, and these young guys are starting to appreciate that."
There's even a rookie who will participate on Sunday. New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey finished second in the rookie of the year voting and was second on his team in receiving.
AT A GLANCE
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