The Pro Bowl — the NFL’s all-star game — is Sunday in Honolulu, but even as games of this type go, it’s stretching it a bit to call the Pro Bowl an all-star game.
Because of “injuries,” selected players competing in the Super Bowl and other reasons, there will be an incredible 106 players who can call themselves Pro Bowlers this season. That’s not exclusive.
What is exclusive is being selected an NFL All-Pro. That is the true NFL all-star team: Players from all 32 teams are considered, and only the best make the first team.
Here is a look at each SEC school and the last time the program had a player receive first-team All-Pro honors.
Atlanta WR Julio Jones in 2015: Jones continues to prove he is one of the best, if not the best, wide receivers in the NFL today. He had 136 receptions for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns this season; he also had nine 100-yard games.
Philadelphia OT Jason Peters in 2013: To think Peters played tight end in college before moving to tackle in the pros. Peters has been one of the best tackles in the league since joining the Eagles in 2009. He originally signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and played four seasons for the Bills.
Carolina QB Cam Newton in 2015: Newton more than likely will be the 2015 NFL MVP. His arm and legs have helped carry the Panthers to the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh C Maurkice Pouncey in 2014: Pouncey has been one of the best centers in the league since he was drafted in the first round by Pittsburgh in 2010. He has been an All-Pro twice in his career.
Cincinnati DT Geno Atkins and Carolina LB Thomas Davis in 2015: Two great players on two great defensive units. Atkins was the anchor of the Bengals’ defensive line this season. Despite three ACL tears, Davis — who played safety for the Bulldogs — has been one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL for 10 seasons.
Pittsburgh C Dermontti Dawson in 1998: Dawson was one of the best centers in NFL history and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. His All-Pro selection in ’98 was his sixth in a row. He retired after the 2000 season. He played in 184 NFL games and started 181 of them.
Cincinnati OT Andrew Whitworth, Arizona S Tyrann Mathieu and Arizona CB Patrick Peterson in 2015: Whitworth never gets mentioned as a great player, but he is. His work at left tackle as a pass protector and run blocker was a big reason Cincinnati won the AFC North. Its performance in the NFC title game notwithstanding, Arizona’s defense was one of the best in the NFL. Peterson rebounded from a relatively mediocre 2014 with a big season. Mathieu — “the Honey Badger” — lined up all over (he saw time at safety, corner and even linebacker) and seemingly was in on every play.
San Francisco LB Patrick Willis in 2012: Willis was a dominant player for the 49ers in 2012 and a key member of their Super Bowl team, with 120 tackles, two picks, nine pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Willis made the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons in the NFL, but suffered a severe toe injury early in 2014, his eighth season, and retired following that season.
Buffalo C Kent Hull in 1991: He spent the first three seasons of his pro career in the USFL, then moved on to the Bills, where he snapped to Jim Kelly. He was a vital part of a strong offensive line that helped Buffalo to four consecutive Super Bowls. He died in 2011 at age 50.
San Francisco LB Aldon Smith in 2012: He and fellow SEC alums Patrick Willis (Ole Miss) and Justin Smith (also Mizzou) were major contributors on the 49ers’ Super Bowl team in 2012. Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks in 2012, his second season in the league.
Atlanta DE John Abraham in 2010: In addition to his 2010 All-Pro season in Atlanta — when he had 13 sacks as a 10th-year pro — he was named an All-Pro in 2001.
Kansas City S Eric Berry in 2015: His return from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014 was one of the best stories in the sports world. He had 61 tackles, two picks and 10 pass breakups in a magnificent 2015 season.
Denver LB Von Miller in 2015: Miller has been a stud since he was the second overall pick in the 2011 draft. His pass-rush ability makes him a feared opponent for every quarterback he faces. Miller had 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and innumerable quarterback pressures this season. His work against Newton in the Super Bowl will be one of the more fascinating sub-plots of the game.
Detroit P Jim Arnold in 1987: He was one of the best punters in the league for a decade, and he averaged 43.6 yards per punt in ’87.
(Feature photo of Julio Jones by KIM KLEMENT/USA TODAY SPORTS)
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