*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 III - February 6, 2004
No matter where you play or what you're preparing for, football practices are pretty much the same. The Pro Bowl is a little different though because the workouts are a lot shorter and the intensity level is a lot lower.
After all, this is supposed to be a reward for the 2003 season, not a punishment.
Since I last checked in, things here have been going pretty much the same. In the morning we have a brief practice and in the afternoon we're free to spend time with friends and family.
I said last time that the Pro Bowl is kind of like a week long party and eventually a football game breaks out. Well, from talking to some of the veterans the last few days, it sounds like things won't get too intense here until the fourth quarter Sunday.
It's my first Pro Bowl, but so far I haven't had too much trouble learning the ropes. Thankfully I have Marco to keep me in line, but there isn't any Pro Bowl rookie hazing or anything like that.
About the closest thing to that is when some of us first-year guys get called 'Rook' in practice. I tell you what, it's been a while since that word has applied to me, so it always takes me a second before I figure out who they're talking to.
At practice yesterday we got in our Pro Bowl uniforms and took pictures. It's a tradition for all the guys from each team to get their photo taken together, so I got to line up with Marco, Ahman and Bubba.
It's definitely a pleasure to have those guys here in Hawaii with me. The Pro Bowl is an individual honor, but football is really a team sport. I know that's a cliche, but it's true.
Take Ahman's relationship with the three of us here. Now, Ahman is going to be an outstanding running back on any team, but without guys like me, Marco and Bubba blocking for him, he's going to have a hard time.
On the other hand, it's pretty easy to look like a good offensive lineman when you've got a guy like Ahman in the backfield. For every time Ahman takes a hole that we give him, there's a time that he makes something out of nothing and saves our butts.
The NFC and AFC teams swap days practicing at Aloha Stadium. Otherwise we practice at the facility by the hotel.
I tell you what, security here is tighter than at a presidential inauguration. You've got to show a badge about every time you walk through a door.
It can be a little bit frustrating at times, but as NFL players it's nice to know that we're in a secure environment.
There's definitely a great amount of fan interest out here. Flying in over the weekend there were hundreds of people lined up at the airport looking for autographs and taking pictures.
It's times like these that I'm glad I have a pretty low profile, since most people -- probably even a lot of the Packers fans -- don't know who I am.
My family members have finally started to arrive in Hawaii and that's exciting for me. To be honest, I think being an NFC all-star is a bigger deal to my parents than it is to me.
There was a time in my career when it looked like my days in the NFL were over, so as you can imagine I've made mamma proud by getting this far. Of course she's a little biased so she was pretty upset when I wasn't voted into the Pro Bowl automatically in the first place.
My sister on the other hand, when she found out I was going to the Pro Bowl, I'm not sure if she was more excited for me or for herself since she was going to get to come out to Hawaii.
Either way, it doesn't matter. There have been so many people who have helped me get to where I am today, so it's nice to be able to repay them a little bit for all that they've done for me.
This has been a fun experience and it's already going by pretty fast. Time to head out to the beach while I have the chance.
Mike Flanagan will wrap up his Pro Bowl Diary with a description of the game next week at Packers.com.