Texans’ Johnson, Williams to start in Pro Bowl | Houston Texans Football | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
For Andre Johnson, this Pro Bowl stuff is almost getting to be old hat.
For Mario Williams?
Well, he tried to say being voted into the AFC starting lineup by his peers was no big deal, but everybody knew he was fibbing. And Williams eventually conceded it was something of an, “I-told-you-so” moment for him after many local fans actually booed his being taken first overall in the 2006 draft ahead of USC’s spectacular Reggie Bush and Houston’s homegrown legend, Vince Young, who had just won a national championship for the University of Texas.
Johnson, who was at Reliant Stadium that day, heard it with his own ears.
“Me just sitting there,” he recalled, “I was like, ‘Man, they never even gave this guy a chance to go out on the field to prove himself.’ Reggie, sure, he had all the hype. Every time you’d turn on SportsCenter
he was there. But you ask anyone who was at that game Sunday (the Texans’ 13-12 win over Tennessee) who they’d want on this team and I think they’d say Mario Williams.
“I don’t think we were wrong to draft Mario. You’ve got start on the defensive side of the ball. Defenses win championships.”
The 7-7 Texans are in the midst of the best patch in their brief history — they take a four-game winning streak to Oakland Sunday — and their progress as a franchise is further validated Tuesday with the naming of Johnson to his third Pro Bowl and Williams to his first, arguably a season after he deserved to go.
His 14 sacks in 2007 — compared to only 4.5 his rookie year, when people were quick to label him a bust — weren’t good enough. However, his 11 to date in 2008 is. Over the last two seasons, he has accounted for almost half of the Texans’ total by himself.
Asked if the news had sunk in, Williams said, “A little bit.” An extra reason to for him to celebrate is that the news came down on his mother Mary’s birthday.
“She’s the first person I called,” he said after coach Gary Kubiak had phoned him.
Williams admitted the tone of Kubiak’s voice was a concern.
“He sounded the same as (when he called) last year,” Williams said. “I thought, ‘Aw, here it goes again. It happened again.’ There was a little pause before he said, I want to congratulate you.’ ” Modest Mario
Asked if he could pinpoint the moment when he realized he was “a great player,” Williams demurred, replying, “I’ve still got a lot to learn. I hope one day I will be a great player. The sky’s the limit. When you’ve got a guy like Andre pushing you, you set your standards even higher.”
But he added: “No matter how good you’re doing there’s always going to be somebody telling you how bad you’re doing. You can’t worry about people’s opinions.”
As for Johnson, the six-year pro from Miami first represented the conference as a reserve after his second season (2004), and returned to Honolulu in 2006 as a starter. He would be overlooked in 2005 in large part because of the Texans’ collective failings — they finished 2-14 — and he wound up missing seven games in 2007 with a sprained knee.
“It was frustrating to go through that, and this year started off frustrating (with four consecutive losses),” he said, “but we got through it. It’s all worked out.”
Once Johnson is on the field, opposing defenses have routinely paid the price — none more than Tennessee’s third-ranked defense. The AFC leader in both catches (103) and receiving (1,408) posted a career day against the Titans — after the Pro Bowl votes had already been cast, by the way — catching 11 passes for a personal-best 207 yards and a touchdown. He has gained more than 100 yards seven times in 2008.
“It’s always a tremendous honor to be named one of the best in the league,” he said. “But I think my mom enjoys (going to Hawaii) more than I do. We were eating breakfast this morning and the first thing she asked me was, ‘When do they announce it?’
“For me, I just go out and play football. If you do what you’re supposed to do, all the accolades, the Pro Bowls, will happen for you. But I feel really blessed.”
Showing he’s a Pro-Bowler off the field, too, Johnson had spent his morning at Toys ‘R’ Us, allowing needy children to go on a spending spree at his personal expense. The credit-card bill was almost $16,000.
Williams, who will also take his mother to Hawaii, has himself never been there. After last year’s disappointment, he vowed not to go unless it was to play in the Pro Bowl.
Johnson will welcome the company.
“Every time I’ve been I’ve never had a teammate over there,” he said, “so this one will be real special for me. You feel kind of bad when you get introduced and everyone else has teammates there, and you’re the only one standing up there on the podium.”
Still, it’s not the first time the Texans have had two AFC starters. After their first season, 2002, expansion draft picks Gary Walker, a defensive lineman, and cornerback Aaron Glenn went to Hawaii despite the team’s 4-12 finish. Jets most popular
Tight end Owen Daniels, fullback Vonta Leach, guard Chester Pitts, linebacker DeMeco Ryans and running back Steve Slaton were named as alternates for the 2009 AFC squad.
The rookie Slaton seemed to have made a strong case for himself in recent weeks, but as Johnson pointed out, “They don’t like to vote rookies in.” Slaton is third in the AFC in rushing with 1,124 yards, trailing the two running backs who made the team, the Jets’ Thomas Jones and fellow rookie Chris Johnson of the Titans.
Elsewhere in the selections, Peyton and Eli Manning were voted to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, the first time quarterback-playing brothers have been chosen for the same all-star game.
The Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton will make his ninth appearance in 11 seasons and will start for the AFC. It will be the first appearance for Eli, who was the MVP for the New York Giants in last February’s Super Bowl. He will be on the NFC team.
The Giants also landed the oldest Pro Bowler ever, 44-year-old kicker John Carney, who was signed at the start of the season as a short-term fill-in for the injured Lawrence Tynes.
The New York Jets led all teams with seven Pro Bowlers, including quarterback Brett Favre, who will be in his 10th Pro Bowl, but his first representing the AFC.
The Tennessee Titans, who have the NFL’s best record, are one of three teams with six selections.
“If we were the Dallas Cowboys (five selections), it would easily be 12 of us going to the Pro Bowl,” said one of Tennessee’s Pro Bowlers, safety Chris Hope. GIVING CHASE NFL sack leaders in the 2007-08 seasons:
Player Team No.
DeMarcus Ware Dallas 33
Jared Allen K.C./Minn. 30
John Abraham Atlanta 251/2
Mario Williams Houston 25
Congratulations to them --- next stop - next year, playoffs.......