Matthew Slater, Stephon Gilmore and Jake Bailey earned the distinct honor of making the 2021 Pro Bowl, and while there was no game in a traditional sense (a Madden competition took its place instead), there is no doubt there is pride in adding a Pro Bowl selection to their resumés.
As it turns out, they aren't the only people in New England celebrating their selection.
Three local football programs were surprised with $5,000 donations -- one for each Pro Bowler -- to help grow, fund and support their teams. Through the NFL Foundation, all Pro Bowlers selected grants to help high school football programs across the country, giving back to their local communities in honor of the game they all love.
Throughout Slater's time in New England, he has talked often about what Rhode Island means to him and his family, having met his wife there and "adopting" a school as part of a new Patriots Foundation initiative. With this in mind, Slater's grant will be going to Woonsocket High School. Gilmore selected Chelsea High School based on the work the Patriots Foundation has done with their community over the year.
Bailey also participated in the "Adopt a School" program, working with Bates Elementary School in Salem, Mass., and he surprised Salem High School with his grant. Ed Mercier, a fifth grader teacher at Bates School, has also been the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the high school team for 20 years. In an email, Mercier said Bailey's time with his elementary school students, as well as this money, has made a world of a difference for the kids in Salem.
"That donation really affects many of the kids I work with outside of school, as well ... Not only is [Bailey] the best punter in the league, he is a great role model for our kids," Mercier said.
It may have been an atypical Pro Bowl, but Patriots fans can rest assured their representatives are investing in future generations of football right in their own backyard.