Four Chiefs make AP All-Pro team
NEW YORK — From a breakthrough quarterback to a unanimous choice, and from two brothers to four rookies for the first time — two from the same club, no less. The Associated Press 2018 All-Pro Team has something for everyone.
Patrick Mahomes and three other Kansas City Chiefs players made the squad Friday. They were joined by the first rookie teammates since 1965 — Colts left guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard. The last time that occurred it was two future Hall of Famers, the Bears‘ Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the only unanimous choice in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
“That’s surreal,” Donald said. “It’s a blessing. Wow! You see the hard work pay off. A lot of credit to my teammates and my coaches for pushing me and helping me.”
Kelce’s brother, Eagles center Jason, also made the team.
“For me and my brother to both get it, it’s that much more special because I still remember us in the backyard fighting with each other, playing football growing up, and we envisioned each other competing at the highest level, competing against the best players,” Jason Kelce said. “And for both of us to be recognized as one of those guys is pretty special.”
“These are the kind of guys who have the DNA, the makeup of everything that we are looking for,” Colts coach Frank Reich said of Nelson and Leonard. “All the intangibles, all the character qualities, everything about them. It’s a really hard filter to get through to get marked that way, and both Quenton and Darius had that on their card. So that says something about their maturity and how fast we think they will develop.”
And already have developed.
Two players made All-Pro for the fifth time: Houston edge rusher J.J. Watt and Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly.
“It means a lot to get back to the top level of the game,” said Watt, who missed most of the 2016 and ’17 seasons with major injuries. “Obviously, it’s an extreme honor to be a first-team All-Pro, especially after what I’ve been through the last two years and hearing the things that people were saying and questioning myself at times.
“To be able to get back to the top level of the game and know that I still have things to improve on and things that I want to get even better at, it’s exciting.”
The All-Pro team was split: 14 AFC and 14 NFC members. There were 16 newcomers: Mahomes; Schwartz; Fuller; Jackson; Cohen; Saints receiver Michael Thomas; Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari; Eagles interior defensive lineman Fletcher Cox; Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore; Chargers defensive back Desmond King and special teamer Adrian Phillips; Jets kick returner Andre Roberts; and the four rookies.
Players with previous All-Pro honors who made the 2018 team included Donald and Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, each for the fourth time; Mack, Dallas right guard Zack Martin and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, each for the third time; Hill; Rams running back Todd Gurley; and Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
“I think I really took a lot of pride in leadership,” said Wagner, who drew 49 votes. “I knew that was going to be big if we were going to be successful. I knew I was going to have to up my role in that, up my mindfulness in that. I was really conscious of that and just making sure I was, when it came to getting back to the defense I looked at it from a different lens.”
Hopkins got the most votes on offense with 46.
“This is validation,” Hopkins said. “I feel like these people are the people who actually know football, who study football, who have been around football for years. So to be on this list and to be first team is a great feeling. But it makes me want to work harder and continue to be on that list.”