On Tuesday, the NFL announced that Packers wide receiver Davante Adams had been named to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement for the Falcons’ Julio Jones. It will be Adams’ first trip to the Pro Bowl, and he joins Green Bay defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who was also selected for the first time as an injury replacement. It’s a small consolation after a disappointing Packers season that ended without a playoff appearance and prompted major changes throughout the organization.
But while Green Bay struggled this season, other parts of the state made Wisconsin proud and will represent its football tradition at next weekend's Pro Bowl. Four players with state ties were chosen for the NFL’s annual all-star game, including three ex-Badgers and two local products from southeastern Wisconsin.
The former Badger standouts were Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Cowboys center Travis Frederick (Big Foot High School in Walworth), both of whom made their fourth Pro Bowls, and Browns linebacker and first-timer Joe Schobert. The second-year player from Waukesha (Waukesha West) replaced injured Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Schobert, 24, walked on at Wisconsin in 2012 before turning himself into a First-Team All-American in 2015 and winning the Jack Lambert Trophy as the nation's best linebacker. Cleveland picked him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the 12th linebacker chosen overall, and following a solid rookie year, Schobert moved from outside to middle linebacker in 2017 and flourished.
Last season, Schobert played every defensive snap for the Browns and finished with 144 tackles, which tied for the most in the league with Bills linebacker Preston Brown and the Packers’ Blake Martinez. Schobert added three sacks and a team-high three forced fumbles. His selection continues Cleveland’s streak of landing at least one player in the Pro Bowl since 2007, a run that was started and preserved by the 11 straight all-star appearances of offensive tackle Joe Thomas, another former Badgers star who missed most of this season with a torn triceps.
"I think I definitely made strides during the season," Schobert told the Browns’ website. "It was my first time playing middle linebacker since youth football. So it’s definitely different keys, different reads and stuff like that, and I think I got more comfortable as the season went along. There’s a lot of stuff to learn from and go from, there's still a lot of room to improve."
On an even more local level, Milwaukee native Brandon Brooks (Riverside) was named to his first Pro Bowl this season, as well. A sixth-year offensive guard who played collegiately at Miami (Ohio), Brooks joined Philadelphia as a free agent in 2016 but had his best season in 2017 after confronting, and speaking publicly, about his anxiety issues. The 28-year-old started all 16 games this season and is a bedrock of the excellent offensive line for the Eagles, who face Minnesota on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.
Last month, Brooks opened up about his anxiety, the way it was viewed in Philadelphia’s locker room and how he hopes – with a Pro Bowl honor now padding his resume – to have an impact on others dealing with depression.
"Let's be real, when I was going through the anxiety stuff, not everybody had my back," Brooks said, according to PennLive.com. "But, at the same time, it's interesting to me now – you know, the Pro Bowl is here – and the same people that didn't support me at the same time now are going to pat me on the back. Let it be understood that although you forgive, you never forget. … Adversity makes you stronger. Probably the biggest thing is, you realize quickly who's in your corner, who's always going to have your back.
"Through the Pro Bowl, and I guess getting my name a little bit bigger, going through that, I really just hope I can reach further to help people going through the same thing. You can overcome it, although times can seem at their darkest, brighter days are coming."
Extremely blessed to be able to make my first pro bowl. Appreciate everyone who helped make it possible. One Love ✊🏽 #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/J6cfUn6FGH — Brandon Brooks (@bbrooks_79) December 20, 2017
In 2016, a trio of former Badgers players, all of whom were also Wisconsin natives, showcased the state’s football talent at the Pro Bowl: Thomas, Frederick and running back Melvin Gordon (Kenosha Bradford). There’s been a Badger in 16 of the last 18 Pro Bowls, with 10 different players – and many a J.J. Watt – selected during that stretch. Schobert continues UW’s legacy this year, with Brooks representing Milwaukee. On, Wisconsin and onward, Milwaukee, indeed.
As for the Packers, Adams was chosen after leading the team in receptions (74), yards (885) and touchdowns (10), despite missing two games due to injury and playing half the season with backup quarterback Brett Hundley. Daniels, who replaced the Rams’ Aaron Donald, finished with 49 tackles and five sacks, anchoring Green Bay’s defensive line.
It’s probably for the best to try and ignore the fact that, after a season in which Green Bay’s secondary collapsed again, a couple of ex-Packers defensive backs – cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Micah Hyde, both of whom left in free agency – made the Pro Bowl this year.
The 2018 Pro Bowl is set for Sunday, Jan. 28, at 3 p.m. (ESPN) at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.