*Severely injured in the second preseason game of his rookie campaign back in 1996, Mike Flanagan's professional career nearly ended as quickly as it began. But now, eight years later, the Green Bay Packers' starting center is on his way to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Flanagan joins running back Ahman Green, tight end Bubba Franks and right guard Marco Rivera at the all-star event. Quarterback Brett Favre was voted to the NFC all-star team, but will not attend the game due to injury.
Last year Rivera became the Packers' first offensive lineman to be voted to the Pro Bowl since Larry McCarren in 1983. This year the inclusion of Flanagan and Rivera gives the Packers two O-linemen in the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1967, when tackle Forrest Gregg and guard Jerry Kramer were starters.
Originally just an alternate for the event, Flanagan claimed the second NFC center spot when Olin Kreutz of the Chicago Bears pulled out due to an ankle injury. Matt Birk of the Minnesota Vikings will get the start.
For Flanagan, this isn't his first trip to Hawaii, but it is his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Flanagan graciously offered to share his experience in an online diary exclusive to Packers.com.
The Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium is Sunday, February 8.*
Pro Bowl Diary, Part II - February 4, 2004
Greetings from Hawaii.
Other than some rain that's keeping me from hanging out by the pool at the moment, things are going pretty smoothly for my first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Monday I got checked in and went to a meeting where we learned the layout for the week. Then I signed about a million footballs. And on Tuesday we had our first practice.
It's always good to see guys from around the league, and that's been the best part so far.
Some of these guys I run into at least two times a season, but going up against a guy on game day doesn't give you a chance to get to know the man underneath the facemask. And that's especially true of guys who play your position, since we're not on the field at the same time.
So for the past few days at practice I've been getting to know some of the offensive linemen that are over here: Matt Birk from Minnesota, Larry Allen and Flozell Adams from Dallas and Walter Jones from Seattle.
Andy Reid is the coach this year and obviously he runs a version of Mike Holmgren's West Coast offense, so most of the stuff we're doing is similar to the Packers offense. That's made the Xs and Os part of this pretty easy for me to pick up.
It's also nice having Marco Rivera around to show me how things are done. I know last year the veterans got on him a little at first for practicing too hard.
Well this year going in I told Marco that I wanted to know about anything to look out for. So he filled me in on how things are done here and I've pretty much been like a little kid following daddy around all week.
After practice in the morning Tuesday we had the rest of the day off. I went down to Waikiki for lunch and then for dinner I went to a party in Honolulu hosted by ESPN.
The food was fantastic and it was a great low-key backyard gathering, not like the luaus they have for tourists with the fire pits and hula girls and all of that.
The mentality down here is that the whole Pro Bowl experience is the reward. It's about more than just the game. It's kind of like it's a party here all week and eventually a football game is going to break out.
So far I've been taking it pretty easy.
As a way to say thank you, I arranged to have 16 people fly over here for the weekend to join me in Hawaii. The first members of that party are scheduled to arrive Wednesday, and I'm looking forward to having them in town.
I don't really have any set plans of what I want to do though because I didn't want the week to be that structured. I just hope that when everybody gets to Hawaii that they can have a good time and that I can see as many of them as possible.
So far this has been a fun trip for me, but it should get even better as we go. Especially when the sun comes out again.
Mike Flanagan's Pro Bowl Diary will continue later this week at Packers.com.