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Taylor done waiting


Fred Taylor was in no hurry.

The Jacksonville Jaguars running back signed dozens of autographs, chatted with old friends and high-fived KC Wolf (the Kansas City Chiefs mascot) before heading back to his posh oceanside hotel.

"It's all good," said Taylor, who is relishing his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

No one can blame him for taking his time. It took him 10 years and 10,715 yards rushing to finally get to Hawaii.

Taylor ranks 17th on the NFL's career rushing list and had been the only player in the top 49 to never make it to the islands. He was the first alternate for this year's all-star game and finally got the call when Pittsburgh's Willie Parker was injured.

Taylor ran for 1,202 yards this season and averaged a career-best 5.4 yards per carry -- better than AFC selections LaDainian Tomlinson, Joseph Addai and Parker.

The 32-year-old veteran is also one of the 41 first-timers selected for Sunday's Pro Bowl. That's the most since 44 were selected in 2000, which was the most since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

The 25 AFC first-timers is also the most since the NFC had 26 in 2000.

"I'm glad we've got the most first-timers," Taylor said. "That means they're going to play the hard because they don't know what to expect."

While the other players have been greeting each other with a warm "aloha," Taylor has been hearing something different.

"My peers know that I'm supposed to be here and all of them having been saying the same thing all week: 'It's about time,"' he said. "Just hearing that from the guys means more than anything else."

Taylor is the lone representative from the Jaguars. Sometimes, he said, the "smaller-market guys get the short stick."

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning agreed. He said Taylor is an example of someone who deserved to be here at least five or six times.

"You could see how truly excited he is and he's not taking it for granted," said Manning, an eight-time Pro Bowler. "He's deserving. I think a lot of players around the league are happy Fred is over here. What a great player he is. I've played against him since my freshman year in college. I know."

Earlier in the week, Taylor and Manning reminisced about the recruiting visit to Florida State they took together while in high school. The Seminoles weren't able to get either; Manning went to Tennessee and Taylor played at Florida.

This trip they're on the same team.

Taylor said the trip has been worth the wait. The beaches are better than he envisioned. But finally being recognized for his work and hanging out with other players are what he's enjoyed the most.

"It's nice. I always felt in my heart I was Pro Bowl caliber," he said. "I'm very grateful regardless of how long it took. I could've quit a long time ago and not been here, especially with the injuries that I've had. But I kept fighting and I'm here now."

Unlike Taylor, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson didn't wait long before earning his first invite. He's just a rookie.

"I won't say I'm spoiled because hard work pays off," he said. "I definitely put my work in, so I deserve it."

Peterson brought 20 family members with him to enjoy the experience.

"I'm just enjoying being around guys with different personalities and some of the guys I watched growing up," he said.

Despite Taylor's long wait, no one has waited longer than Washington Redskins long snapper Ethan Albright, who is making his Pro Bowl debut in his 13th season.

"I get better with age," he said.

Redskins tight end Chris Cooley also is making his first appearance in his fourth year.

"It's a lot more relaxed than I would have expected," Cooley said. "We just come out, jog around and go through plays. It's been real easy."

Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson didn't think he made it until he got the call after New England's Tom Brady dropped out a day after the Super Bowl. Anderson invited 10 family members, washed some clothes and caught the earliest flight to Honolulu.

He said the timing was good.

"I didn't have anything planned this week," he said.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also is making his first appearance. He was selected a couple years ago but didn't make it because of a thumb injury. He said the number of new faces could mean that a lot of veterans couldn't make it.

"Or, there's a lot of great young talent in the NFL and it's starting to show a little bit," he said.

Albright, who waited 13 years to get here, said he doesn't mind the younger players making the Pro Bowl so early in their careers.

"The thing that's unfair is these guys who come in league and go to the Super Bowl their first two or three years," he said.

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