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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Pro Bowl newbies, Davin Joseph and Clifton Smith, make sure to enjoy themselves

Buccaneers Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber have been named to a combined 16 Pro Bowls, including this year's.

But there's nothing like the first one, which is why today's game in Honolulu will be so memorable for guard Davin Joseph and rookie return specialist Clifton Smith, both newcomers. To get a true sense of how big a deal it is, check out their travel lists.

Joseph planned to take not only his parents and several family members, but three of his fellow linemen: Arron Sears, Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood.

He is making good on a promise the group made long ago: The first one named to the Pro Bowl takes the others. And Joseph, already indebted to his linemates after losing a bet when his alma mater, Oklahoma, fell to Florida in the BCS title game, had to make the trip a little more comfortable for the trio. They traveled to Hawaii on first-class tickets purchased by Joseph.

The grand total: More than $6,000.

Joseph probably never considered the financial consequences of receiving such an honor, but he never hesitated to accept it, either.

"When I got the phone call, I probably said yes before they even asked the question," he said. "I was excited."

That sums up the feelings of Smith's contingent, which could hold a family reunion in Hawaii that spans a couple of generations.

"I've got my girlfriend, mom, both sisters, a nephew, my dad and his wife, my uncle's family — that's another five — and my dad's friends," Smith said. "I have a lot of people going. And my best friend is coming."

The financial burden on Smith is lighter than Joseph's because his pockets are lighter. Unlike Joseph, a 2006 first-round pick, Smith went undrafted last spring out of Fresno State and was on the active roster for only the final nine weeks of the season. He spent the first part of the season on the practice squad on the lower end of the NFL pay scale.

"A lot of (his entourage) said they were going to pay for themselves because they didn't want to put me through that," Smith said, joking. "I can breathe a little bit. I'm good."

Regardless of their bank-account sizes, Joseph and Smith today are on equal footing with many of the game's greats, even if they're having trouble getting their minds around that.

Smith, a self-described fan, was looking forward to rubbing elbows with the likes of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. He wondered how many of his Pro Bowl teammates might even know who he is. Even if they don't know his name, they have to appreciate his story.

"Coming from (being) an undrafted guy and (having) people telling you that you might not ever play the game again to getting to the Pro Bowl," Smith said, "it's one of those dreams."

For Joseph, making the Pro Bowl could change the way he's viewed.

"It was one of those things I didn't expect," he said. "It wasn't really on the list, but I'll take it. You work so hard to try to get into the playoffs and get to a Super Bowl and win a championship that I guess this is one of those things that come.

"You play hard, and you work hard. And you earn the respect of your opponent, and you end up getting those things as you grow and develop as a player. I guess I'm getting to that point now."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

FAST FACTS

Pro Bowl

Who: NFC vs. AFC

When/where: 4:30 today; Honolulu

TV: Ch. 8

Bucs: Cornerback Ronde Barber, linebacker Derrick Brooks (injured; won't play), guard Davin Joseph, kick returner Clifton Smith

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Pro Bowl newbies, Davin Joseph and Clifton Smith, make sure to enjoy themselves 02/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 7, 2009 7:43pm]
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