Revamped Pro Bowl Week Brings The Football World To Orlando, Including Bowl Alums
The 2017 NFL Pro Bowl will have a fresh look when it hits Orlando at the end of January, from the schedule of events to the format of the game itself.
In its return to the mainland, the game has also gone back to a more traditional conference format. Forty-four of the top players from the AFC will square off with 44 of the best from the NFC at 8 p.m. on Jan. 29 at Camping World Stadium.
“You look at going back to the AFC-NFC format, that’s going to increase the competitive game,” NFL Director of Youth and High School Football Roman Oben said on NFL Network earlier this year. Oben also said he expects other byproducts of the format to include “more excitement among young fans and better player attendance.”
The team rosters were announced in late December – you can view them here.
For many of those selected stars, this won’t be the first visit to Orlando. One quarter of the initial 88 participants selected to this year’s Pro Bowl have played in either the Russell Athletic Bowl or Buffalo Wild Wings during their collegiate days. Thirteen players on the original roster played in a Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl while nine others appeared in a Russell Athletic Bowl:
- Tom Brady (1999 Citrus Bowl)
- Cameron Wake (2003 Capital One Bowl)
- Thomas Davis (2004 Capital One Bowl)
- Cliff Avril (2006 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Joe Thomas (2006 & 2007 Capital One Bowl)
- Matt Ryan (2007 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Rodney Hudson (2008 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Maurkice Pouncey (2008 Capital One Bowl)
- Travis Frederick (2009 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Geno Atkins (2009 Capital One Bowl)
- A.J. Green (2009 Capital One Bowl)*
- Patrick Peterson (2010 Capital One Bowl)
- Devonta Freeman (2011 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Zack Martin (2011 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Xavier Rhodes (2011 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Harrison Smith (2011 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Le’Veon Bell (2011 Capital One Bowl)
- Dont’a Hightower (2011 Capital One Bowl)
- Julio Jones (2011 Capital One Bowl)
- J. Mosley (2011 Capital One Bowl)
- Jadeveon Clowney (2012 & 2014 Capital One Bowl)*
- Vic Beasley (2014 Russell Athletic Bowl)
* indicates the player will not compete in the Pro Bowl due to injury
UPDATE: Entering the NFL’s Conference Championship Weekend, several players have pulled out of the game due to injuries allowing several other stars to receive an invitation to play in the game. Jadeveon Clowney and A.J. Green both will miss the 2017 meeting of league stars because of lingering injuries. Of the additions, four more former Orlando bowl participants have been added to this year’s Pro Bowl rosters.
- Dustin Colquitt (2002 Citrus Bowl)
- Carlos Dunlap (2007 Capital One Bowl)
- Jimmy Graham (2009 Champs Sports Bowl)
- Sean Lee (2010 Capital One Bowl)
With the injuries and additions, the current roster now features 24 players that played in an Orlando bowl during their collegiate careers.
Four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, who quarterbacked Michigan to victory in the 1999 Citrus Bowl, leads all 88 participants with his 12th career selection. Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas (10th selection) and Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (1st selection) are the only two in the bunch to have played in an Orlando bowl more than once, each making two appearances during their college careers.
One of the most noteworthy announcements for some fans includes the return of the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown. NFL legends Jerome Bettis, Ray Lewis (AFC), Tony Gonzales and Charles Woodson (NFC) will lead their respective squads that will feature a mix of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.
Competitions in the NFL Pro Bowl Skills Showdown will include a Power Relay Challenge, Precision Passing and a Best Hands contest. But the competition getting a great deal of attention will be Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball.
The Skills Showdown is just one aspect of new programming that will span the entire week. According to Oben, Pro Bowl Week is going to be a “week-long celebratory emphasis of youth and high school football.” Pro Bowl players will be inviting a youth or high school coach who impacted their lives to join them in Orlando. The Don Shula Award Winner (given to the high school coach of the year as named by the NFL) will be awarded during Pro Bowl Week while NFL FLAG Championships (Jan. 27-29) and the PUNT, PASS & KICK National Championships (Jan. 27) will be held at ESPN Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort.
“Collaborating with Disney and ESPN brings us closer to the best in youth and family-focused entertainment,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We look forward to working with the City of Orlando and Florida Citrus Sports to create a weeklong celebration for football and our fans.”
Tickets for the Pro Bowl game are on sale now at ProBowl.com.