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Twenty-one standouts of current ACC schools earn Pro Bowl honors
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – When quarterback Philip Rivers drops back to pass in this weekend’s NFL Pro Bowl, he hopes to avoid making frequent re-acquaintance with a former college teammate.
That would be fellow NC State alumnus Mario Williams, who will be lining up at defensive end on the opposing side for Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. ET game at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Rivers and Williams are two of 21 players who starred at current ACC schools that earned Pro Bowl recognition following the 2013 season.
As standouts for AFC teams, Rivers (San Diego Chargers) and Williams (Buffalo Bills) would have been Pro Bowl teammates in years past. But a format change this season saw former NFL greats Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders draft opposing teams for Sunday evening’s game. Rivers will take snaps for Team Rice, while Williams will line up for Team Sanders.
Rice showed the utmost respect for ACC alum Jimmy Graham (Miami) by making the New Orleans Saints tight end his number one overall pick. Graham, a former Hurricane basketball player, has blossomed into the NFL tight end most observers regard as the best at his position. Graham finished this season with 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.
While Team Rice’s Rivers will be wary of Team Sanders defenders such as Williams, linebacker Luke Kuechly (Carolina Panthers/Boston College) and cornerback Darrelle Revis (Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Pitt), he will have plenty in the way of a counterattack. In addition to Graham, former Pitt standouts in Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald stand out on the Team Rice roster.
Fitzgerald is the all-time Pro Bowl leader in touchdown receptions with eight in six prior appearances. A glance at the game record book also finds former Florida State placekicker Sebastian Janikowski holding the record for PATs in a game (eight last year) and Sanders (Florida State) having set the standard for the longest interception return (87 yards in 1999).
The AFC-NFC Pro Bowl played from 1971 through 2013 saw seven players from schools currently in the ACC earn MVP honors – DeAngelo Hall (Virginia Tech) in 2011, Matt Schaub (Virginia) in 2010, Fitzgerald (Pitt) in 2009, Derrick Brooks (Florida State) in 2006, Michael Irvin (Miami) in 1992, Jim Kelly (Miami) in 1991 and Bruce Smith (Virginia Tech) in 1988.
A total of 12 players with ties to current ACC schools are expected to suit up on Sunday. Nine others withdrew due to injury or other commitments. Three of the most notable that fall into the latter category are Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas (Georgia Tech), Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson (NC State) and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor (Virginia Tech), who are prepping for the Super Bowl.
Alumni of current ACC schools expected to play in Sunday night’s NFL Pro Bowl:
Branden Albert, OT, Kansas City Chiefs (Virginia)
Duane Brown, OT, Houston Texans OT, Houston Texans (Virginia Tech)
Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills (NC State)
Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers (Boston College)
Darrelle Revis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Pitt)
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers (NC State)
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (Pitt)
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (Pitt)
Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (Miami)
Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City Chiefs (Virginia Tech)
Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets (Florida State)
Antrel Rolle, S, New York Giants (Miami)
Additional Pro Bowl selections from current ACC schools who withdrew from the game due to injury or other commitments:
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks (NC State)
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (Georgia Tech)
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans (Miami)
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (Georgia Tech)
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers (Maryland)
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers (Miami)
Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams (North Carolina)
Kam Chancellor, SS, Seattle Seahawks (Virginia Tech)
Ahmad Brooks, OLB, San Francisco 49ers (Virginia)
Next week: A look at current ACC schools’ ties to the 2014 Super Bowl