ORLANDO, FL – Being here is a meaningful thing, a good thing.
That's one thing Jaguars weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith said Thursday regarding his first Pro Bowl experience – that the experience very definitely has been "worth the work" it took to get here.
Here's another thing, Smith said:
"It shows you've got to keep working."
Smith, the Jaguars' fourth-year linebacker, emerged this past season not only as the emotional and vocal leader of one of the NFL's best defenses, but as perhaps the NFL's best 4-3 outside linebacker.
He was named second-team Associated Press All-Pro. After not initially being named to the Pro Bowl in December, he was named to the team and accepted the invitation Monday.
"I'm just taking it in, being around everybody and I'm telling you – there are some great guys around here," said Smith, whose 31 postseason tackles in three games this past season included a 14-tackle performance in a Divisional Playoff victory over Pittsburgh.
Smith, who had three interceptions this season, also had a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the playoff victory over Pittsburgh.
Asked the most notable thing about the Pro Bowl, Smith replied: "Just the respect level of everybody."
"Even though we play against each other on the field, and even though we do a lot of stuff, there's a lot of respect around here," he said.
Smith said while making the Pro Bowl definitely was an honor, being in Orlando this week also has given him a chance to see far more accomplished players.
"I've been talking to A.B. (Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown) and I've been talking to [Baltimore Ravens defensive end Terrell] Suggs a lot," Smith said. "I'm like, 'Ah, man … these dudes have been playing this game a while at a high level.' This is what we strive to do.
"Now, you're in the same conversation, but again: it's great to be honored to be here, but now this is the group you have to get better than, you know what I mean? That's what separates you.
"This is the cream of the crop. Now, this has to be who you go get it from."
Notes and observations:
*Among the notable Jaguars Pro Bowl sights Thursday: cornerback A.J. Bouye lined up on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Bryant during practice, Smith working through practice in sunglasses and all five Jaguars players in attendance – cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Bouye, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and linebacker Telvin Smith – waving to the crowd when one group of Jaguars fans began chanting, "Duuuuvalll…" late in the session. Bouye and Ramsey were among the more requested and accommodating players in the media session following practice, with both players doing interviews long after the session's 20-minute window had ended. Ramsey, Bouye, Jackson, Ngakoue and Smith also posed for a group photo of the five Jaguars representatives in the Pro Bowl. That can be found here. The five players in the Pro Bowl are the most for the franchise since seven players were named to the game following the 1999 season; defensive end Calais Campbell originally was named to the game, but opted out on Monday. …
*Smith reiterated Thursday what Bouye said Wednesday – that multiple players from multiple teams have expressed admiration for what the Jaguars accomplished this season. "There was a lot of showing of respect," Smith said. "It obviously didn't go unnoticed how we were playing out there on Sundays. Winning … it will do it." The Jaguars won their first AFC South title and their first division title since 1999; they lost in the AFC Championship Game to the New England Patriots, 24-20, this past Sunday. …
*Bouye shared a story of how he began calling Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles "Fiesta Blake" this season. "Some of my old teammates who I'm very close to come up to all the games; every time Blake had a good game they called him, 'Fiesta Blake,' " Bouye said, referring to Bortles' 301-yard, three-passing-touchdowns performance for the University of Central Florida in a 52-42 victory over Baylor in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl. Bouye, who played two seasons with Bortles at Central Florida, continued: "They came to the Seahawks game and they were like, 'That's our Fiesta Blake.' When I play Madden and I'm going off, I'm like, 'Fiesta Blake … that's Fiesta Blake.' That's my new nickname for him. I told him before the playoffs, 'I want to see that Blake from the Fiesta Bowl.' That's what happened.''