Rivera Surprised By Pro Bowl Announcement


At the end of Thursday's morning practice, as GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman prepared to announce the Packers' Pro Bowl selections, right guard Marco Rivera hoped his name would be among those called.

If not, he hoped fellow offensive linemen Mike Flanagan or Mike Wahle would be granted a ticket to Hawaii.

So when Sherman announced that Brett Favre, Ahman Green, Bubba Franks and Darren Sharper would be headed to the Pro Bowl in February, and then proceeded to list the names of the Packers' alternates, Rivera felt a twinge of disappointment.

"Last year I was an alternate, and he didn't name me," Rivera said. "I thought, well, maybe next year."

But then a grinning three-time MVP caught Rivera's eye.

"I kind of looked at Brett and he was smiling," Rivera said. "I think Brett knew. And (Sherman) finally said, 'Oh, Marco is going to the Pro Bowl.'"

And suddenly disappointment shifted to joy.

"I did get a little choked up," Rivera admitted. "I wasn't expecting it ...

"I was glad one of our offensive linemen finally got some recognition. It kind of puts us back on the map."

Not since 1983 has a Packers offensive lineman been voted into the Pro Bowl. Two-time honoree Larry McCarren had been the last (1982, 1983), with Frank Winters making it as an alternate in 1996. Other than that, Hawaii has been a foreign landscape to the Packers O-line.

That Rivera is the one to break a 19-link chain is especially poignant, because the numbers were never in his favor.

A former sixth-round pick, the seven-year veteran has played the last month of the season with two torn medial collateral ligaments. Yet he's one of only five offensive players on the team to start all 14 games this year.

"That shows what kind of fighter he is, to be able to push through that pain and still play at a high level," Sharper said. "That shows what kind of character he has, what kind of heart he has."

That kind of character and heart can go a long way toward earning the respect of Pro Bowl voters -- which include fans, coaches and players. And when you're an offensive lineman, playing a position that doesn't have stats printed in the Monday newspaper, it needs to.

"Maybe that won over some guys," Rivera speculated when asked why he thought he earned the votes of his peers. "Overall, I don't know. Each guy votes different."

For example, some might be surprised to hear that Rivera gave his vote for defensive tackle to Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp (as a rule, the Packers don't vote for their teammates) -- a player who, after his debilitating hit on Chad Clifton, many Packers fans would vote for only if it meant sending him off the island in Survivor.

But in Rivera's opinion, "Why not?"

"He's the best in the business," Rivera said. "I'm one of those guys that if you show it on tape and you show it on the field, you deserve to be acknowledged. He definitely is one of those guys who deserves it."

Besides, it was by controlling Sapp in their November meeting that Rivera flashed some of his all-star mettle, holding the self-proclaimed 'QB-Killa' sackless and tackleless.

Rivera called it his best performance of the season.

"I've had a lot of solid games, but that game sticks out because of the guy I was going up against ... and facing him with two bad knees," he said.

And who knows, maybe Sapp backed Rivera for the Pro Bowl as well.

"Probably, I probably think he did," Rivera said. "Me and him kind of have a mutual respect ... Maybe he's one of the guys who voted."

Even if not, Rivera can still go home tonight and call himself a Pro Bowler. Come February, he and his wife, Michelle, can spend some vacation time in a tropical paradise.

Rivera has never been to Hawaii, just like he'd never visited Washington, D.C., until he went there in May to meet President George W. Bush and attend a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House as a Hispanic NFL representative.

Put together, those two events make for a memorable year. But apparently Rivera still has some empty pages in his scrapbook.

"Do you know what would be better?" he asked. "Meeting the president, going to the Pro Bowl and winning the Super Bowl. Now that's a hell of a year."

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