Sports Watch

Bill Kwon

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, February 4, 1999

’99 Pro Bowl features
firsts and lasts

IT'S not often you're going to have the opportunity of observing both the Last Hurrah and the First Hurrah being celebrated in the same football game.

That's why the 20th Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium will be something more than special. Pro Bowls are always special anyway, since the players represent the creme de la creme of the National Football League's American and National conferences.

Autograph seekers are like wide-eyed kids in a candy store. There's so much to choose from and not enough time to sample it all.

Hey, there's Jerry Rice. But, then, there's Steve Young on the other end of the practice field at the Ihilani Resort. Getting Rice's autograph might make you miss Young. Such a dilemma for 49er fans.

You want Sanders? Barry or Deion? They're on opposite sides of the ball. Either/or, take your pick.

Media types solicit a lot of things, but not autographs. All we want is a good sound bite or two. But it's always difficult to get a quickie quote because the players "want out of here" when practice is over. Got to tee it up, you know.

But with a bit of dumb luck -- and isn't a lot in life simply that? -- I was able to chat with the Alpha and the Omega of this year's Pro Bowl, namely, Randy Moss, Minnesota's spectacular rookie wide receiver, and Green Bay's "Minister of Defense," Reggie White.

THIS will be White's final Pro Bowl. Voted into the Pro Bowl a record 13 times, White will set another mark by playing for the 11th time Sunday. He missed two Pro Bowls because of injuries. Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott and Mike Singletary, all retired, now share the record with White by playing in 10 Pro Bowls.

If White does retire, it won't just be his final Pro Bowl, it'll be the last time we'll ever see him in a football uniform. So Sunday's Pro Bowl will be special indeed.

Like Michael Jordan, White will be calling it quits at the top of his game. The 37-year-old Packer defensive end led the NFL with 16 sacks and was named this season's defensive player of the year.

But God works in mysterious ways.

"I'm retiring. This is my last game," White said after yesterday's practice. "Unless, God does something else. There's always a crack in the door when God talks," said White, an ordained minister.

And when God talks, Reggie listens. He talked Reggie into going to Green Bay six years ago and into changing his mind about retiring last April.

Meanwhile, 14 AFC teams are praying that Denver's John Elway retires. But the only voice Elway keeps hearing is Terry Bradshaw's, reminding him that six teams have won back-to-back Super Bowls, but nobody made it a three-peat.

THEN, there's Moss, who turned the NFL on its ear and the league's defensive backs on their rears.

This is his first Pro Bowl.

"It won't be my last. I'll be back. There will be more," Moss said.

"I always believed deep down inside that I can play any sport that I really put my mind to," said Moss. "I was a basketball and football player mainly, but I thought I'd be more successful playing football."

Talk about an understatement. Moss, the 21st pick in the NFL draft, caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"He's a phenomenal, phenomenal young player," said wide receiver Cris Carter, who's playing in his sixth Pro Bowl. "He's got a bright future and I'm looking forward to playing with him for a number of years."

"I'm just thankful he's on our team," added Vikings' quarterback Randall Cunningham, who made it to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time after coming out of retirement. (There's that word again).

For Cunningham, it'll be One More Hurrah on Sunday.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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