Young stars making a press release at 2023 Pro Bowl Games

LAS VEGAS — The Pro Bowl is an annual celebration of the NFL’s most interesting gamers, most of them well-established veterans with a few years of professional expertise.

And then there may be Sauce Gardner.

The New York Jets rookie cornerback stormed onto the scene this season, saying his entry into the league along with his dominant model of protection and elite playmaking means.

And he is not alone. As the AFC and NFC groups gathered at Allegiant Stadium on Saturday for a walkthrough forward of the Sunday conclusion of the Pro Bowl Games (3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/ESPN+), it was unattainable to disregard all of the younger blood. Fourteen gamers on this yr’s Pro Bowl squads have three or fewer years of NFL expertise.

It’s a vivid reminder that at a time when the final era’s icons are reaching retirement, the way forward for the sport appears to be like shiny.

“[Tom] Brady retired, and that’s decades of greatness right there,” second-year Dallas Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons mentioned. “J.J. Watt retired. Von Miller is still going but I don’t know how many years we have left to enjoy him. I hope he plays forever.

“So, it’s cool to be a part of this new generation and to carry on what those guys did and hopefully get those gold [Hall of Fame] jackets like they got.”

Some of the brightest stars within the Sunday occasions are going to even be a number of the youngest gamers in attendance. There’s no higher instance than Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson, who’s in his third season however already is marking his third Pro Bowl choice. He additionally was a unanimous All-Pro choice.

“There’s so many good young players right now,” Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence mentioned earlier than being interrupted mid-sentence for a fist bump with Gardner. “See, speaking of good young players. It’s really cool for the game.”

Gardner, who led the NFL with 20 passes defensed, turned the primary rookie cornerback chosen first-team All-Pro in 41 years.

“You have a lot of young guys who watched the older guys and the foundation that they set,” Gardner mentioned. “So, the mentality we have is that you don’t have to be an older guy to be able to dominate in this league. You’ve got to have heart and you’ve got to have a lot of confidence. I feel like all of these young guys around the league, I feel like that’s what we have a lot of.”

That would possibly sound a bit daring for somebody who remains to be 22 years outdated, however Gardner additionally understands the knowledge of those that got here earlier than him. He latched on to the phrases of Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis this previous week, as the 2 greats are serving as AFC coaches.

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“They told me stuff that’s going to stick with me forever,” Gardner mentioned. “We want to be where our idols are. … We want to be like the guys who motivated us and inspired us.”

Not all the younger and rising stars are family names simply but. Detroit Lions second-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is right here after making 106 receptions for a surprisingly high-octane offense.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen went from the fifth spherical of the NFL draft to the Pro Bowl in a single season after main the league with six interceptions. He’s one among three rookies on this Pro Bowl, becoming a member of Gardner and Dallas Cowboys return specialist KaVontae Turpin.

As the groups wrap up their abilities competitions and play the brand new sequence of flag soccer video games Sunday, they could present a small window into what the way forward for the league will appear to be.

“It’s exciting,” Lawrence mentioned, “because every year guys are going to continue to get better and better.”