KAHUKU, Hawaii—Friday was the second day of Pro Bowl practice for Team Rice and Team Irvin, which between them include five Seahawks: Bobby Wagner, Tyler Lockett, Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson. But as always, Pro Bowl week is about a lot more than football, so here are a few observations from off the field:
1. Richard Sherman is a rock star
Just about every player at the Pro Bowl is a household name, at least to football fans, but some are at another level of fame than the typical football star. And when it comes to Sherman, few, if any players, are in more demand here when it comes to media and fans. The minute practices end, Sherman is swarmed by media, and grants numerous requests that seem to just keep coming. Then he signs autographs for the kids screaming his name (no, Tyler Lockett isn’t one of them). Something as simple as getting off the field seemingly takes forever as the interview requests and requests for photos continue as he walks towards the bus. What's more impressive about this scene than Sherman's celebrity status is how patiently and graciously he handles it. We're in Hawaii, after all, and getting off the field and back to the hotel means free time with family, or time for the beach, or whatever else might be more fun than posing for picture after picture, but Sherman still finds a lot of time both for media obligations and fans even as his status continues to grow.
Just one example of that came when Karla Jones, a Seahawks fan from Anchorage, Alaska, got Sherman's attention just after fans were told no more autographs were allowed. Instead of a signature, Sherman handed Jones his shoes.
"I just love him," Jones said. "My son, he's a high school senior, he was reading on Twitter yesterday how nice Richard Sherman is and how much time he takes for his fans. We came down just to see him… We're avid Seahawks fans."
2. The Pro Bowl is still a big deal here
There's a good story in today’s Honolulu Star Advertiser about Honolulu native Marcus Mariota, who is now the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans. Mariota didn't make the Pro Bowl this year, but was on hand for a Pro Bowl event in Waikiki Friday. The No. 2 pick in last year's draft could certainly end up that caliber of player soon, but as he notes in the article, being a Pro Bowler may not mean a return trip to Hawaii in the future.
When you hear about the Pro Bowl these days, there's often a lot of cynicism attached to the discussion, and it's understandable why. The game isn't the most competitive event, even by exhibition standards, this year a record number of players declined to play in the game, and it's not at all uncommon to read stories calling for the league to get rid of the game all together.
But while the Pro Bowl might not be a perfect event, it still matters a lot to people in Hawaii. As Mariota recalls in the Star Advertiser story, he used to attend events as a kid and wait hours for autographs, and kids this year are doing the same thing. One young boy, after getting an autograph from Hall of Famer Jerry Rice on Friday, sprinted to his parents screaming over and over, "I got Jerry Rice! I got Jerry Rice!" with the biggest smile on his face you'll ever see.
The Pro Bowl is sold out, the community completely embraces the game and the week leading up to it, and while the game itself might not be the highest-quality football game you'll see this year, or anything close to it, this week still matters a lot to Hawaiians.
3. Ted's Bakery is the spot for North Shore eats
If you've been to Oahu but only spent time in the Waikiki and Honolulu area, do yourself a favor next time you're here and venture to the North Shore. In addition to being an hour or so away, the North Shore feels like a different world compared to the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and Honolulu. It's a much more laid-back, surfer vibe there—though also crowded this week thanks to big surf—a more authentic taste of Hawaii, if you will.
Part of being a more laid-back and residential community, however, is having fewer dining options than in the more touristy part of the island. But if you're on the north side of Oahu and need a bite to eat, Ted's Bakery is the place to go. Not only do they have great food, but also the kind of great service that means offering to replace a meal for free if a certain member of the Seahawks digital media department (not the person writing this) were to drop his entire breakfast in the parking lot.
Team Irvin's Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, and Russell Wilson got together with Team Rice's Bobby Wagner and Tyler Lockett for team pictures this morning, but then were split up again for the week's second practice.