‘Big Orange’ is dominant color as former Vols take six Pro Bowl spots
Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 7:00 pm
The NFL Pro Bowl will have a distinct Big Orange tint.
A school record-tying six former Tennessee Volunteer players made this season’s game as the rosters were announced on Wednesday night.
Selected to the league’s all-star game were strong safety Eric Berry, punter Dustin Colquitt, running back Arian Foster, quarterback Peyton Manning, linebacker Jerod Mayo and tight end Jason Witten. Five of the six — Berry, Colquitt, Foster, Manning and Mayo — have been selected as starters.
With six selections, Tennessee is tied for having the most former players of any school in the nation. Along with the Vols, Georgia and Miami (Fla.) also have six products in the Pro Bowl.
The record of six former Vols selected to the Pro Bowl was set in 2011 with a very similar make-up to the 2013 selections. Two years ago, lineman Chad Clifton was selected while Colquitt, makes his first Pro Bowl this year. The other five picks also played in the 2011 game.
Manning is playing in his 12th Pro Bowl, first while playing for the Broncos. Manning had been chosen every year from 2002 through 2011 before sitting out the 2012 season.
Witten will play in his eighth Pro Bowl, all in the last nine years. He made every game from 2005-11.
It is the second Pro Bowl for both Berry and Mayo, while Foster has been chosen for the third year in a row.
Manning’s 12 Pro Bowl selections are the most for a quarterback in NFL history. He is also the first quarterback to make a Pro Bowl one year removed from missing a full season due to injury or illness.
“It’s a tremendous honor and I am very humbled to receive this recognition,” Manning said. “Being voted to the Pro Bowl by your opponents, their coaches and of course the fans means a great deal to me, especially when you consider how many other quarterbacks in the AFC are having outstanding seasons. This recognition shows that our offensive line did a great job with protection. It shows that our wide receivers and tight ends made a lot of plays.”
Berry has been designated a Pro Bowl starter. This season he has started all 15 contests for the club, recording 80 tackles (68 solo), nine tackles for loss, one interception and 10 passes defensed.
His career numbers include 206 tackles (150 solo), 2.0 sacks (-11.0 yards), five interceptions for 102 yards with one touchdown return, 23 passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Colquitt set a single-season franchise record with 42 punts inside the 20-yard line, heading into Week 17, and is now tied for second place in NFL history for most punts inside the 20-yard line in a single season behind Arizona P Dave Zastudil’s 2012 mark of 44.
He has punted 75 times for 3,514 yards, marking the seventh-consecutive time in his eight-year career that he has punted for more than 3,000 yards in a single season. He has a gross average of 46.85 yards per kick, the highest gross average of his career, and carries a 40.25 net average, trailing only his single-season career-best 40.78 net average in 2009.
To go along with his 42 punts inside the 20, he has seven touchbacks and a season-long punt of 71 yards.
Foster ranks second in the AFC with 1,328 rushing yards and leads the NFL with 14 rushing touchdowns and 15 total touchdowns.
Mayo enters the final week of the season with a team-leading 179 total tackles and is the first Patriots player to start his career with five straight 100-tackle seasons.
Mayo has registered 10 or more tackles in 10 of the first 15 games to tie a career-high. He also had ten 10-tackle games in 2010.
Witten is headed back to Hawaii for the eighth time in his career after missing last year.
A backup this year for the NFC squad, Witten is now tied for sixth on the Cowboys’ list of Pro Bowlers with eight alongside Emmitt Smith.
As for Witten, there was a chance he might not play at all this year after suffering a lacerated spleen injury in the first preseason game. While it was decided surgery wasn’t needed, Witten rushed back to play in the first game, where he had just two catches for 10 yards. After three games, Witten had eight catches and a handful of dropped passes, clearly showing he wasn’t himself.
But he more than turned things around, recording games of 13 and then 18 catches in a game, Witten went on to record more catches this year than any tight end in NFL history, surpassing Tony Gonzalez’ record of 102 catches set in 2004.
Witten is up to 103 with a game to play and could even break Michael Irvin’s Cowboys’ single-season record of 111 set in 2005.
Published in The Messenger12.27.12