Two and a half weeks after wearing his leis and taking his bows, guard Brandon Moore today still had the smile of a proud NFL all-star.
"It was great when we came out for the introductions," Moore recalled about his first appearance in the NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu. "Relating it to the NBA All-Star Game, they're announcing all the great players and to be a part of that is something special. To have that, it's one of the highest individual honors you can get in this game, other than the Hall of Fame or the MVP, which an offensive lineman's not going to get."
"Just being in the huddle with players who've been around the league and that you're aware of, guys like Ben Roethlisberger and the others, they're just regular guys, very passionate about their jobs, professional. Just being a part of the top athletes in the league, being in the huddle in practice and in the game, I think that'd be the biggest memory for me."
This year's Pro Bowl, held on Jan. 29, was the latest mile marker in Moore's now 10-year trek from being an undrafted free agent defensive lineman out of Illinois to being recognized as one of the top offensive guards in the game today.
"I give a lot of thanks to Rex Ryan," he said. "He came to the Jets with no history with me and he started the drumbeat, which I didn't have before because I didn't come from a high pedigree as a high draft pick. And I give thanks to the organization, the patience they showed with me early in my career. I kept going home, coming back, going home, coming back until I finally was able to get established."
Support from All Over
Moore can also thank his parents, Brenda and Julius, for making it all possible, not just in the mother-and-father sense but in the campaigning Brenda did in Gary, Ind., during the season.
"My mom kept mentioning me back home," he said. "Our church was voting for me [online at nfl.com] and the pastor got up on the Sunday after it was announced that I got in and congratulated me that I had made the Pro Bowl."
Brandon's parents joined his wife, Regina, and their two children for the full week of festivities on Oahu. It was a great story for No. 65, but like we said, the Pro Bowl was a mile marker, not an end-of-the-road sign. He's feeling pretty good these days about his physical condition not a year after he underwent a procedure to clean out his hips.
"It was a nagging injury. I played a couple of seasons with it. It was definitely something I needed to do to be productive past this year," he said. "Coming back to training camp last summer, I was just really starting to run around. That was a time where there was definitely some learning experiences I had to go through. The doctors told me it was like an ACL, to use an example. You feel good that first year, then you feel great the next year after a whole offseason.
"I'm happy I did it. I feel I have a lot more years left. I'm excited about this offseason, as excited as I was when I was a young pup just coming into the league. I've got this new challenge. I feel like I've got this big challenge to get up to a higher level."
Forged from Iron
One challenge that can't get much better for Moore is his availability. He's in the top two among current NFL guards and in the top four among all current O-linemen in both consecutive regular-season games started (121) and played (124). He's even actually No. 5 among all current offensive players with his starting streak.
"I take great pride in that," he said of his Brandon Iron stretches that began concurrently in '04. "As an offensive lineman, you want to be there whenever the coach calls on you. You want to be consistent and play at a a high level. I take great pride in playing through some things that most people probably wouldn't play through. There's a level at which you've got to take care of your body. Our training staff has given me different ways to deal with my body and I can't give John Mellody and those guys enough credit. When you know better, you do better."
So his physical and mental states are good news. And Moore is also up for the larger challenges, of getting his line, his offense and his team back into championship shape.
"I'm excited about it. It's a new season with new challenges. I can't wait to get back with a new coaching staff," he said. "We have a great nucleus here, good guys in the locker room. I'm excited about the challenge and about being able to bounce back from last year. Everybody starts with a clean slate.
"You realize there's a fine line between wins and losses, getting in the playoffs or not. A catch here, a block there — all different things play into whether you make it or you don't. It's all about enjoying the process and I'm looking forward to it."
And if the Jets' doctors, trainers and head coach are right, a 2012 showing that's even stronger than '11 could net him back-to-back trips to Aloha Stadium.
Here are the longest ironman streaks (GS–Games Started, GP—Games Played) among active NFL offensive linemen:
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