ORLANDO, Fla. — Jack Doyle had a hunch he'd be making his first appearance in the Pro Bowl this year as he watched Sunday's AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars with his wife, Casie.
After putting in a career year with the Colts in 2017, Doyle, a second alternate in the voting, watched on as AFC Pro Bowl starting tight end Rob Gronkowski's Patriots battled back to top the Jaguars, 24-20, and advance to Super Bowl LII.
Because those players participating in the Super Bowl cannot take part in the Pro Bowl, Doyle thought it was just a matter of time before he'd officially get his ticket punched to Orlando, but it was a call from his general manager, Chris Ballard, shortly after the game that officially sealed the deal.
"(I) was kind of waiting for a call, and Chris Ballard called me in a classy move to congratulate me," Doyle said. "And I really appreciated that."
And there Doyle found himself on Wednesday, alongside his Colts teammate, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, down in Orlando taking part in the AFC team's first practice of the week, as they put in initial preparations for this Sunday's Pro Bowl, which kicks off at 3 p.m. at Camping World Stadium.
Naturally, Doyle had some questions for Hilton about what to expect this week, seeing as this is The Ghost's fourth-straight Pro Bowl selection.
For his part, Hilton said seeing Doyle get to experience everything for the first time has been the best part about the week so far.
"It's just fun seeing the new guys coming, like (it's) Jack Doyle's first time; he's asking me a lot of questions yesterday how it's going to be," Hilton said. "So you love those times, and I just love that Jack's here."
In his first season as the Colts' No. 1 tight end, Doyle shined, as his 80 receptions were second most among tight ends in the NFL, and were the second most in a single season by a tight end in Colts franchise history (Dallas Clark had 100 receptions back in 2009, when he was the last Indy tight end to be selected to the Pro Bowl). Doyle also had a career-best 690 receiving yards and hauled in four touchdown receptions.
Knowing just how respected Doyle was — both on and off the field — Ballard said getting the free-agent-to-be signed to a new deal was a huge priority when he was hired as the Colts' general manager early last year.
The Colts and Doyle did just that, as he agreed to terms on a reported three-year, $19 million contract.
"He's everything we want to stand for: he's hard working, he's loyal, he's a good player. And he loves the game of football, and his teammates love him, and that's important," Ballard said of Doyle Wednesday, speaking at the 2018 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. "You can't buy a locker room; you have to build and you have to earn your respect in that locker room, so for Jack to be able to make the Pro Bowl, that was a big statement for him and what he stands for, and I'm very proud of the kid."
A hometown kid who played his high school ball at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Doyle said he's looking forward to the chance to spend time with his family in Orlando — his young son, Ronan, will undoubtedly enjoy everything Disney has to offer down there — but, as for the football experience itself, Doyle hasn't been able to even begin to register everything he's already done and what's coming these next few days.
"It's a little surreal," he said. "I'm trying not to think about it too much — it's another one of those things where you'll reflect on it later in life. Just taking it day by day and trying to have fun and enjoying Orlando."
T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle in action during the AFC practice on day 1 of the 2018 NFL Pro Bowl.