Three Former Gators on 2020 Pro Bowl Rosters
Before the NFL makes their final stop of the season in Miami for Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, the league's best players all gather in Orlando for a week of football-related activities and the Pro Bowl game.
In the bridge from the postseason competition, until a champion is crowned, the Pro Bowl is held to reward players for their successes on the field that season.
For the 2020 Pro Bowl, the Florida Gators saw three of their own, in Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden, and Trent Brown, be honored for their play on the field with an invite to the event.
Let's take a look back at the three players' careers at the University of Florida and their journey to the NFL.
As many Gator fans probably know, Pouncey is one of the most successful players in the NFL from the University of Florida.
As an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Pouncey continues to be one of the premier centers in the NFL at the moment.
During his time at Florida, Pouncey was a large counter-piece in the Gators 2008 National Championship win and is well known for being one of the Pouncey twins that anchored the front during the glory years of Florida football.
In his first season at the University of Florida in 2007, Pouncey served as a versatile piece playing early on in his career. In that season, Pouncey saw valuable time at right guard and center—is the seventh true freshman to start in the season opener for the Gators in their illustrious history.
Coming off a National Championship season, the Gators transitioned into the Tim Tebow led era and did so with Pouncey playing a key piece in the Florida offensive line.
In 2008, Pouncey made the permanent move to center while his brother Mike Pouncey moved into the spot he occupied the season before the right guard.
The Pouncey twins became known to many not just among the Gator faithful but around the country. This tandem worked well for the Gators in securing their second national championship victory in three years.
In his junior season, Pouncey continued this dominance—winning the Remington award, which is given to college footballs best center—before announcing he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Starting in 39 of 41 career games, Pouncey proved to be a menacing presence in the trenches and was drafted with the 18th overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was thrown into a starting role in his first season in Pittsburgh, starting all 16 games and thrived in doing so.
Playing only in Pittsburgh during his ten-year career and starting all 121 games he’s appeared in since he was drafted, Pouncey has been a consistent piece in their success over the past decade.
Unfortunately for Pouncey, after another high caliber season from the veteran, he will not be able to participate in the Pro Bowl due to a knee injury he suffered in Week 16 of the season.
Haden is the cornerback that leads the self-proclaimed DBU in the NFL, being the most successful the team has produced in quite some time.
Playing during the same years as the previously mentioned Pouncey, Haden also had a quite outstanding career at Florida.
Arriving on the scene in Gainseville in 2007, Haden immediately jumped into a starting position for the Gators at cornerback. Starting in 12 out of the team's 13 games that season, Haden became the first true freshman to start at corner for the Gators on opening day.
His skill set was immediately recognized upon arrival as he finished the season with 63 tackles, an interception, and was named to the freshman All-American list.
His play on the field improved, even more, going into the Gators National Championship season. With a year already under his belt, the young Haden thrived, tallying 87 tackles and the fourth-longest interception return touchdown (88 yards) in school history during his sophomore season.
He put his talent on display in the biggest game of the year for Florida recording ten tackles and three pass breakups en route to taking down Heisman winner Sam Bradford and the Oklahoma Sooners in the National Championship game.
Being such a rounded piece at corner, Haden was a prized possession by NFL scouts going into what would be his final season at Florida in 2009. Wrapping up his collegiate career in 2009 with 68 tackles, four interceptions, and three sacks in his junior year, Haden was named a unanimous first-team All-American and shared the team's season MVP with quarterback Tim Tebow.
In that season, Haden cemented his legacy not only as a Gator but as a sure-fire first-round pick in the 2010 draft. Going 11 spots in front of his teammate Pouncey, Haden was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the seventh overall pick in the draft.
After spending seven solid seasons with the Browns, he was released and acquired by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he would unite with Pouncey in 2017 on a three year, $27 million contract.
Since then, Haden went on to appear in his first-ever playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017 and continues to be one of the NFL’s premier corners.
The chance the Steelers took on the guy many had thought to be washed up has proved to be a great one.
In his tenth season in the NFL, Haden was added as a late addition to the Pro Bowl to replace the injured Marcus Peters of the Baltimore Ravens. Finishing the season with 65 tackles and five interceptions, Haden was overwhelmed with emotion when he learned he was named a Pro Bowler, according to Steeler Depot.
Haden will be making his third Pro Bowl appearance this Saturday for the American Football Conference in Orlando.
Beginning his collegiate career at the junior college ranks with Georgia Military College, Brown made the jump to Florida in 2013 as a massive offensive line prospect.
Standing 6-8 and weighing 363 pounds, Brown was the largest offensive lineman the Gators had in the team's entire history.
Starting his career at Florida, Brown was used as a swing tackle during "jumbo" sets to provide some more beef on short-yardage situations until he took over the starting tackle position due to injury against Georgia.
He went on to play start at guard for the Gators in 2014 and was drafted in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
Since then, he has been a bit of a journeyman player, suiting up for the 49ers, Patriots, and Raiders during his time in the NFL.
After a significant contract signing this past offseason with the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders, Brown put together his best season to date, securing his first-ever Pro Bowl selection.
Unfortunately, it was announced that he would be placed on injured reserve the day after the Pro Bowl selection, ending his season and his ability to participate in the game.
Despite lacking in quantity, the Gators have produced some very skillful players that have gone on to make excellent careers for themselves at the next level.
Pouncey, Haden, and Brown have genuinely earned their spots on this year's Pro Bowl roster and represented the Gators well with their play in 2019.