Being selected to a Pro Bowl is a significant honor for any NFL player. It's recognition that fans, players and coaches view you as one of the best players in league full of elite athletes.
But for the quartet of Seahawks selected to the NFC roster this week, these Pro-Bowl selections feel particularly meaningful because of the journey to get to this point.
Geno Smith, a starter early in his career with the Jets, spent the last seven seasons as a backup quarterback before finally getting a shot to compete for a starting job, and not only did he win the job, he has spent this season showing himself to be one of the game's best quarterbacks.
Smith said he's "really grateful for the fans voting, obviously, the players and coaches as well. I'm very grateful for my first Pro Bowl and I am really excited about it." But as much as others might think of this season as one of validation for the longtime backup who waited too long to get this chance, Smith doesn't see it that way.
"Not at all," he said when posed the question about validation. 'I think that is just a result of me playing well, which is what I expect. I don't feel validated by it, I think us winning would give me some validation. I think that would be it for me. Obviously, I am grateful, but there is no validation."
Others, however, can appreciate the feel-good nature of Smith's 2022 season even if he doesn't want to talk that way.
"It's a great story," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I'm so fired up about that. I'm so fired up that it's not something that we could do, that got orchestrated from the outside and people watching what he has accomplished and what he's done. I'm just thrilled for that. It's a good story for a lot of players, a lot of guys know that it is out there and it's not ever over. He's had a great year and I know that he doesn't care about that right now. He just wants to finish this thing right, kick butt in this next game coming up and the next couple, and see where we are."
Quandre Diggs has been a Pro-Bowler each of the past two seasons, so on one hand it's hardly a surprise he is once again recognized as one of the league's best safeties, but on the other hand, he is less than a year removed from surgery to repair a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula suffered in the fourth quarter of the final game of the 2021 season.
"The first one is special, the second one is cool, but when you come off something that I came off of, you guys have seen the videos, you have seen the videos, and it's on the internet every day," he said. "People tag you in those things and you see those things, so you kind of look up and thank God that you are able to be out here and be able to play this game. I have been blessed to play every snap and go out there and compete with my guys. Who would have thought in January that I would have been able to do that. This one is definitely special and definitely means more because knowing what I went through last offseason."
Said Carroll, "That's a phenomenal story that maybe could get lost. If you could remember where he was on the field late last year, and how traumatic that was because he knew exactly what had happened. At that moment that it happened, he was crushed, but he battled back and never backed off. He did everything that he needed to do and came back and put together another Pro Bowl season for us. He's such a big deal around here. Guys love this kid. He's such a competitor. He's so tough. When he speaks, everybody listens. To have him have that recognition again, really grateful."
Tariq Woolen arrived in Seattle as a fifth-round pick out of UTSA, a player with rare physical traits but with very limited experience at cornerback, and was seen by most as a player who might someday develop into a contributing player, not as a Week 1 starter who would go on to lead the NFL in interceptions through 14 games.
"He's had a fantastic season, he has made so many extraordinary plays, and has been a factor in so many good things that have happened with the ball coming to us, recovered fumbles, and all of the picks as well," Carroll said. "He and Coby Bryant had a string going there earlier in the year of knocking the ball loose. It's another terrific story. He showed early in camp that there was something here. We just kind of hung with it and hung with it and before you knew it, he was matching up with our best guys and doing a good job. It just meant, 'Let's see what happens, let's go with him.' He's handled it really well. He's been really humble, I don't know how he was with you guys today, but he's just been humble and very poised about all of this, so we are really proud of what he has accomplished and the coaches that helped him get through this."
In addition to being the first Seahawks defensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl since Lofa Tatupu in 2005, Woolen also takes a lot of pride in being the first Pro-Bowl player to come out of UTSA, a school that only started playing football in 2011.
"It's crazy," he said. "We had the program for 12 years, and I feel like it's one of the greatest things to do because when people go back in 100 years, they are going to see that Tariq Woolen was the first Pro Bowler. It's pretty cool because all of the other schools have history from the 1800-1900s, whatever. It just feels good to do it at my school and to be able to put my school on the map."
Jason Myers might be the most likely of the group to make the Pro Bowl—he also earned that honor in 2018, and just two seasons ago he went 24 for 24 on field goals for the season—but even his story has a good back story to it, as he is also coming off a season that was below his standards, making 17 of 23 attempts in 2021.
"It's just setting a high expectation for myself every year," he said. "You're never looking forward to a year where something doesn't fall, but it happens as a kicker in the NFL. You just have to bounce back, and to be able to see my work come out is awesome."
Said Carroll, "Really, if you look at since he has been here with the Seahawks, he's had a great run with us, and he has done a fantastic job. He's had an awesome year, there was a time where he hit two 56s (field goals) in one game and we were kind of, 'Oh okay, that's no big deal.' He's just been so solid and so accountable. He's a great kid to work with too, he's really a ballplayer and it comes out. He competes like every other position competes, so we are really fortunate to have him."
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Kansas City Chiefs, the 53rd meeting between the two teams, for Week 16 of the 2022 season. Take a look back at some of their previous matchups.