Last March, before a homegrown "King" returned to reign over the Cavaliers, another beloved local athlete returned to Northeast Ohio. Today, the hometown hero was rewarded for his efforts.
Cleveland native Donte Whitner will represent the Browns in the 2015 Pro Bowl on Sunday, January 25 in Phoenix, Arizona. This marks Whitner's third consecutive Pro Bowl.
Selected as an alternate earlier in the Pro Bowl process, Whitner received the nod since Seahawks safety Earl Thomas will be ineligible, as Thomas and the Seahawks will be taking on the Patriots in the Super Bowl on February 1.
Whitner becomes the third member of the Browns' secondary to receive the Pro Bowl nod. Cornerback Joe Haden and free safety Tashaun Gipson, along with left tackle Joe Thomas, will join Whitner in the Pro Bowl next weekend.
The Glenville grad spoke with Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com following the announcement:
It's a great accomplishment whether you get in as an alternate or you're a starter in the game. It's just great to be acknowledged by your peers, coaches, teammates and fans, so it's a great accomplishment ... It shows that we put a lot of good work in this year. People talk about the best secondaries in the league but our numbers really show it as far as yards per attempt, as far as quarterback ratings and as far as interceptions -- all of those numbers that really count and really show who's the best. I think Seattle has a great secondary also, but when you look at those numbers, I think we're in the top three in all important categories it's a tribute to our coaching staff first and foremost and in the hard work that the guys put in, so we'll be back next year.
As Whitner stated, the Browns' secondary was one of the best in the NFL this season. The Browns ranked eighth in the league in passing yards per game allowed (224.5), tied for sixth in passing touchdowns allowed (22), tied for third in yards/attempt (6.4), and second in interceptions (21).
Whitner himself recorded 68 tackles, 5 passes defensed and 1 interception. The 29-year-old safety played in all 16 games, quickly emerging as a leader on the defensive side of the ball.
For the second straight year, the Pro Bowl teams are "unconferenced." Michael Irvin and Cris Carter will select the teams in a Fantasy Football-style draft on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on NFL Network. In this system, the four Browns Pro Bowlers will likely be split up.
The game itself will take place next Sunday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, which is also the site for the Super Bowl. The game will air on ESPN at 8 p.m.