Friday, February 5, 1999
better with age
The Pro Bowl signal
callers are all thirty-
See also: NotebookBy Paul Arnett
If you want to be a Pro Bowl quarterback, you'll need gray flecks in your thinning hair, some time lines across your face and a little giddyup in your gait.
At 33, Atlanta's Chris Chandler is the youngest of the six men under center taking part in this Sunday's Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Fellow NFC quarterbacks Randall Cunningham and Steve Young are 36 and 37, respectively.
"Hey, we're just getting started," San Francisco's Young said when queried about the age requirements. "Look at Chris and Randall, they're just coming of age. The key to longevity in this league is knowing when to duck."
Young won't get any argument from his AFC counterparts. Denver's John Elway, Buffalo's Doug Flutie and the New York Jets' Vinny Testaverde have lasted this long by developing a sixth sense for impending danger.
Without it, Elway never reaches 38, Flutie 36, or Testaverde 35.
"We're kind of the old men in a young man's game," said Flutie, who has the least amount of NFL experience with five years. Elway is the dean of the six with 16 seasons. "I guess you could call us survivors. I know I am.
"But at the beginning of the year, if you said Flutie, Chandler and Cunningham would be in the Pro Bowl, people would have looked at you like you were crazy. For me, it's a great honor to be here. I hope I get the opportunity to come back again before I retire."
Elway has come and gone from so many Pro Bowls, he probably doesn't realize he has been named to the AFC team eight times. Last year, he opted to skip the event, citing an injury. He took part in his first AFC practice yesterday at Aloha Stadium, and is here because his family convinced him to make an appearance.
Just don't expect him to take every snap from center. Elway has seniority. He could play one or two series, then perhaps, call it a career.
"This is a death game," Elway said after yesterday's AFC practice. "If you don't watch yourself, some of the defenders are killers. I'll just play it by ear and try to do something good out there. Anyway, Flutie's a lot younger than I am."
Flutie walked over to Elway upon hearing his name and wanted to know how come the Denver quarterback gets jersey No. 7, and he is forced to wear an unfamiliar No. 6.
"I won the coin toss," Elway said. "You flipped a coin and you lost."
All six Pro Bowl quarterbacks took part in the playoffs, with Elway coming away with the grand prize for the second consecutive season. While he and Young are fortunate enough to remain with two marquee franchises, the remaining four have been here, there and everywhere.
It took awhile, but Cunningham and Chandler have finally found permanent homes.
"We thought it was going to be our (Minnesota's) year," said Cunningham, who has been in the league 13 seasons, the same as Young. "The loss to Atlanta was disappointing, but it still doesn't take away from the great season we had. We've just got to come back harder next year.
"I can't say why all the quarterbacks are along mature lines. We're the seasoned vets of this group. I look around here and see a lot of up-and-coming stars. I'm hopeful to make it to at least one Super Bowl before I'm through."
At least Chandler can say he has played in the NFL's main event. That experience should help him if Atlanta makes a return engagement in the near future.
"Nothing can really prepare you for a game like that," Chandler said. "It was a great experience, something that will prepare me if I'm fortunate to make it back.
"I'm glad to be back here in the Pro Bowl. This is always a fun week to be around the best in the game. When I hang out with the other quarterbacks, I suddenly feel a lot younger."
It will be Testaverde's second Pro Bowl as well. He figures he and Flutie will see the most playing time for the AFC.
"John is probably only going to play a couple of series, but you never know," Testaverde said. "No matter how old you are, this is still a great experience. You look around at the guys playing here, and you know you have arrived."
TodayTopps Card Show and Pro Bowl Experience Free autographs from NFL stars and Pro Bowl Cheerleaders, prizes, interactive games and more. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, noon to 9 p.m. Single-day tickets, $5 for adults, $3 for children under 12. Three-day passes, $12.50 for adults, $5 for children under 12.
au Hana Party Music, free autographs from NFL stars and the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders, and "Taste of the Pro Bowl" food festival. Aloha Tower Marketplace, 5 p.m. to midnight. Free.
TomorrowCheerleader/Dance Competition and Clinic High school cheerleaders and dancers from Hawaii and the mainland compete. Waikiki Shell and Kapiolani Park Bandstand, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Also free clinic. Competition tickets $5 at Waikiki Shell Box Office.
Practices/Team photo Final practices and team photo shoots. Aloha Stadium, 10 a.m. Free.
Topps Card Show and Pro Bowl Experience Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (See today).
Pro Bowl Family Day Afternoon appearances by NFL Pro Bowl players and cheerleaders. Sea Life Park, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kamaaina rates for residents and military are $12 for adults and $6 for children 4 to 12 years of age. Information: 259-7933.