The pandemic forced the NFL to cancel plans to hold its annual Pro Bowl this year, but the league’s annual end-of-season all-star game was still top of mind for San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young.
Speaking at a Paley Center for Media event — “Changing the Game: The NFL Pro Bowl Goes Virtual” — that brought together executives and personalities from the NFL, EA Sports, ESPN and Verizon to discuss the intersection of football, TV, gaming and interactive entertainment, Young recounted the story of how he and Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman had both been named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster. The two devised a plan to split playing time so that Aikman could leave the game early to attend a family event. It nearly worked, too.
At least until John Madden, who was announcing the game, called attention on national TV to Aikman’s sideline absence.
Young also remembers fondly Hall of Famer Reggie White frequently holding court in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl. Nicknamed “The Minister of Defense,” White was not only a 13-time Pro Bowl selection at defensive end but also an ordained minister. Young said White would frequently spend some of his time in Honolulu baptizing other players in the ocean.
This is the first time since 1949 the Pro Bowl has been cancelled. In its absence, the NFL worked closely with its partners at EA Sports, ESPN and Verizon to create a weeklong event featuring a series of matchups between celebrities, NFL Legends and current players competing in “Madden NFL 21.” The week culminates in the first virtual Pro Bowl featuring NFL players selected to the Pro Bowl playing the game within Madden 21. The virtual Pro Bowl will be available for fans to watch across a variety of platforms.
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