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'It's something that I look forward to each and every year': Broncos' 2024 Pro Bowl trio enjoy exciting game to cap week in Orlando


ORLANDO, Fla. — When Peyton Manning says he expects big things from you, you have to deliver.

Cornerback Pat Surtain II clearly took that to heart, as he posted a pick-six that exemplified the kind of defensive playmaking ability that earned him a starting spot in the 2024 Pro Bowl Games' flag football matchup.

"I had [the] quarterback['s] eyes," Surtain said after the game. "I was looking at the quarterback, and he turned his shoulders and threw the ball. So I was ball-aware, 100 percent, on that play, and I just made a play."

Unfortunately for him, his squad couldn't fully take advantage, as the AFC fell 64-59. However, the score also incorporated other skills challenges, which skewed to the NFC's strengths.

"Yeah, man — they sold us," Surtain said jokingly. "I ain't gonna lie, they sold us. I'm pretty sure if we'd won those skills challenges, we would have won, for sure."

Still, the game came down to an entertaining final moment, as a fourth-down try just 3 yards from the end zone with four seconds remaining fell incomplete.

"It's something that I look forward to each and every year," said Surtain, now a two-time Pro Bowler. "I think they're putting on a great event just for everybody to have fun — sit back, relax but play football at the same time."

The value of a Pro Bowl selection can go well beyond simply a trip to warmer locale, as safety Justin Simmons can attest. Simmons' first Pro Bowl selection came after the 2020 season, when the league could not host the yearly festivities in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His second selection, though, was quite different.

"The week was great, man," Simmons said. "I mean, getting to hang out and obviously enjoy some family time, but getting to meet some of the guys, your peers around the league that you go up against and you know how talented they are, just break bread throughout the week and then do all the little fun competitive challenges that we were doing, it was a blast. I had so much fun."

Gathering most of the league's top players — excluding those recovering from injuries or players whose teams reached the Super Bowl — can result in more than just an exciting week of flag football, athletic competitions and camaraderie. Players also are able to utilize this rare linkup to expand their understanding of the game or their position through conversation with others performing at the highest level.

Surtain named players like Eagles cornerback Darius Slay, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith among those that he was excited to talk with in that regard.

On Sunday, the Broncos' Pro Bowlers, Justin Simmons, Pat Surtain II and Marvin Mims Jr., took part in the 2024 Pro Bowl Games' flag football matchup.

"[They are] vets in this game that have been doing it for the longest and doing at a high level," Surtain said. "Just being around them and being a sponge, I just think it helps a lot."

Return specialist and receive Marvin Mims Jr. also said he took mental notes while he was in Orlando.

"Really, I was just watching all the receivers that are up here and kind of learn what they do and how they prepare themselves and just try to apply it to my game," Mims said.

As one of the few rookies to make it to the Pro Bowl, Mims said his experience was an inspiring one.

"It still feels a little weird to be with these guys, but it's been great," Mims said. "It's been a lot of fun. Guys took me right in, just treated me like I was one of them. It was a lot of fun to get to know them on a personal level vs. a football level."