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John DeShazier: Saints running back Alvin Kamara excited to be around other Pro Bowlers

Kamara: 'There are some GUYS out here. So for me to be in this category is a blessing'

Orlando – Was there any time last season that New Orleans Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara gave off the impression that he was in awe of anything?

Speed of the game? Nah.

Stakes in the game? Uh-uh.

Assignment? Nope.

Being the target of an opposing defense? Please.

Spotlight? The guy has a nose ring, has been known to wear a gold grill, helped spike Airhead sales by revealing his affinity for the candy and was named Pepsi Rookie of the Week seven times in the 17-week season. Attention does not unsettle him.

But being on an NFC Pro Bowl roster that's stacked with talent, including six of his teammates, for Sunday's game at Camping World Stadium? Now, that's enough to give Kamara chills.

"(Arizona cornerback and former LSU standout) Patrick Peterson, guys like (Tampa Bay defensive tackle) Gerald McCoy, (Seattle safety) Earl Thomas," Kamara said, rattling off names. "There are some GUYS out here. So for me to be in this category is a blessing.

Saints players and staff prepare for the 2018 NFL Pro Bowl during NFC practice on Wednesday, Jan. 24.

"I have no problem saying that I'm excited to be around these guys. They're great players, great ambassadors for the league and great men. So just being out here and being a part of this brotherhood is great."

He may be impressed but he's not undeserving, after producing an introductory season that was historic.

Kamara totaled 1,554 yards from scrimmage (728 rushing and 826 receiving) and scored 14 touchdowns, a franchise rookie record. One of those scores was a 106-yard kickoff return, the longest play in franchise history and a score that put him on a list with Hall of Famer Gale Sayers as the only players in NFL history to score five rushing touchdowns (he had eight), five receiving touchdowns (five) and a special team touchdown in their rookie seasons.

Kamara, a third-round pick (No. 67 overall), became an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate despite totaling 21 rushing yards, 71 receiving yards and no touchdowns in his first two games. In the final 11 games, he had seven games with 100-plus yards from scrimmage, two others in which he totaled 89 and 90 yards, and scored 12 touchdowns.

In the Saints' two playoff games, he added 66 rushing yards, 72 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

He earned his running back spot alongside teammate Mark Ingram II, to become the first Pro Bowl running back duo from the same team since 1975. It's fitting, because the two virtually have been inseparable this season, answering questions as a tandem after games and doing the same now, each day after Pro Bowl practice.

Still, it has been a lot to take in for the unflappable Kamara.

"We're just out here enjoying the time," he said. "All of these guys are great players, even better guys. We're just out here enjoying each other's company. There's a lot of wisdom out here. Just a lot of great guys out there.

"I was looking forward to it. The rookie season, it was a blessing to be able to have the success that I had. So this is just an exclamation point on this season."

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