Art of perfection


Chris Hope, the starting strong safety for the Tennessee Titans, said Wednesday night after practice that it's something he strives for no matter what he's doing.

He never missed a day of school from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Except for one "B," Hope made straight "A's." He started his first game at Rock Hill High School as a freshman and never sat down while playing in 55 straight games.

Hope, in his seventh NFL season, added another chapter to his long list of success, when he was voted to play in this year's Pro Bowl on Feb. 8 in Honolulu, at Aloha Stadium.

He's the first York County player and just the second area player in almost 50 years to play in the game. Chester's Marion Campbell, who later coached in the NFL at Atlanta and Philadelphia, played in the 1959-60 games as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hope said after working through the adversity of missing most of last season with a severe neck injury, being selected is a "huge" honor.

"For me, getting picked to play in the Pro Bowl says I'm at the best level as a player in the National Football League," said Hope, who starred at Florida State after high school. "It's a sign of perfection. I aimed for it in youth football, middle school, high school, college, and now the pros. I believe that, no matter what you do, you're cheating yourself and others if you don't give your best.

"Some players get picked and don't go. I believe it's because it's after the end of a long season and that some players have already been. Players like Brett Favre have experienced it so many times."

Hope is one of 31 first-time players in this year's game -- 17 from the NFC and 14 from the AFC.

He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2002 NFL draft. After starting at safety and helping lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl XL title in Feb. 2006 -- a 21-10 win over Seattle -- Hope signed with the Titans as a free agent.

While in Pittsburgh, Hope met his best friend in the NFL, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who was selected in the first round of the 2003 draft. Hope was picked to back up his friend in the Pro Bowl.

They meet again Sunday, when the 11-3 Steelers visit the 12-2 Titans. The winner gets home-field advantage in the playoffs.

"Troy and I text each other a lot," Hope said. "But because of our game on Sunday, we've laid off this week.

"Troy and I became instant friends his rookie season. When I was considering signing with the Titans, Troy sat down with me and we talked about what I should do. The day it was announced that I had signed, we were together and did everything but cry when it scrolled across the bottom of the TV screen."