orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Sports Headlines

January 3, 2014

Orange native Thomas makes NFL All-Pro

NEW YORK — Peyton Manning has responded to a lost season the way he reacted to all of his great seasons.

By having more great seasons.

Manning was the only unanimous choice for the 2013 Associated Press NFL All-Pro team Friday. It was his seventh time as a first-teamer, tying Hall of Famer Otto Graham for the most by a quarterback.

The Denver star set NFL records this season with 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards through the air.

He was chosen on all 50 ballots from media members who regularly cover the NFL. Manning also was an All-Pro for Indianapolis in 2003, '04, '05, '08 and '09 and last season made it as a Bronco. He's been on the All-Pro team in both seasons since missing 2011 after several neck surgeries.

"I think it's well documented that this is the second chapter of my career, and didn't know what to expect off that injury and new team, new players and new physical state after an injury," said Manning, a four-time league MVP who never missed a pro start before 2011. "So I had no idea what to expect, and I've put a lot of time and a lot of hard work in to it. But I've received a lot of help along the way from coaches and trainers and strength coaches and teammates. So I'm very grateful."

Manning still has a ways to go to set the record for most All-Pro appearances at any position. Among the players ahead of him is Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice with 10.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and Indianapolis outside linebacker Robert Mathis each drew 49 votes. Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy and Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman had 48.

Minnesota kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson was the only rookie on the squad.

Eighteen NFC players and nine from the AFC made the team. Carolina and Philadelphia each had three: linebacker Luke Kuechly, center Ryan Kalil and fullback Mike Tolbert for the Panthers; NFL rushing leader McCoy, guard Evan Mathis and tackle Jason Peters for the coach Chip Kelly's Eagles.

"Just when Chip came here, we knew we were going to run the ball," McCoy said. "The linemen, they've all been healthy this whole year. They've been blocking so well for me and without those guys, it's not possible."

Only two members of the top teams in each conference made the All-Pro team. Joining Manning from the Broncos (13-3) was guard Louis Vasquez. Joining Sherman from the Seahawks (13-3) was safety Earl Thomas.

"It is very special, especially in a special season," Sherman said. "If you're having a special season and your team has four wins or five wins, I'm sure it doesn't feel as good. But when your team is winning, your defense is No. 1 in every category and you're just contributing, you're not even trying to do anything special individually, you're just contributing to the entire group. It really feels special. And with the chance to do what we have a chance to do this year, it would be fantastic."

Unlike Sherman, many of the players chosen did not enjoy huge team success this season: 12 of the 27 failed to make the playoffs.

Rounding out the offense were receivers Calvin Johnson of Detroit and Josh Gordon of Cleveland; running back Jamaal Charles of Kansas City; and tackle Joe Thomas of Cleveland.

Other All-Pros on defense were ends J.J. Watt of Houston and Robert Quinn of St. Louis; tackles Gerald McCoy of Tampa Bay and Ndamukong Suh of Detroit; outside linebacker Lavonte David of Tampa Bay; inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman of San Francisco; cornerback Patrick Peterson of Arizona; and safety Eric Berry of Kansas City.

The special teamers were Patterson, kicker Justin Tucker of Baltimore and punter Johnny Hekker of St. Louis.

One of 15 first-time All-Pros, Kuechly was last season's Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"It's an individual award, but it's a representation of the team," he said. "You got to always remember that you have four guys in front of you. You got the other linebackers, the coaches and the DBs behind you that make everything possible."

Overall, 16 clubs were represented on the All-Pro team: Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, Baltimore, Houston and Indianapolis in the AFC; Philadelphia, Carolina, Seattle, Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Arizona, Minnesota and San Francisco in the NFC.

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