KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Amid the greenery around the lush grounds at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort, there’s an orange tint to Jerod Mayo's first Pro Bowl trip.
The chance to meet up with some fellow Volunteers is part of the fun of the Pro Bowl for Mayo. He also played college ball with Chiefs safety Eric Berry and, of course, there’s Pro Bowl mainstay Peyton Manning.
“It’s good having all these Vols out there,” Mayo said. “A little orange flavor.”
In his third year out of Tennessee, Mayo led the Patriots and NFL with a career-high 193 total tackles (credited by Patriots coaches), including two sacks, and will back up Ray Lewis at inside linebacker in Sunday's Pro Bowl game.
Mayo said he’s enjoying “getting out of that snow in Boston.” But a trip to Hawaii isn’t quite what the Patriots had in mind when they completed the regular season at 14-2. Mayo said he’s already looking toward next season as the Patriots aim to improve a defense at ranked 25th in the league in yards allowed. Meanwhile, the Steelers and Packers, two of the league’s top five defenses in fewest yards allowed, are preparing for the Super Bowl a week from Sunday.
“We played both teams and they’re both talented teams and they earned their way into the Super Bowl,” Mayo said. “It’s no secret defense wins championships, and both of those teams obviously have great defenses. We have to continue to get better, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
It hasn’t been all beach time and lounging by the pool in the player’s down time. Several Patriots players were involved in community events around Oahu on Thursday. Cornerback Devin McCourty took part in the NFL Play 60 Community Blitz event at the Kaneohe Marine Base, helping at a clinic that emphasized fitness to the youngster on the base.
“I wish I would have been able to be in a camp like that with a bunch of guys I looked up to,” McCourty said. “It was just fun seeing them out there and the kids having fun being able to do a little drill with you. … It’s important to go out there and be role models and be positive.”
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Jason Kaneshiro is covering the Pro Bowl for ESPNBoston.com all week.