Although the NFL’s version of an All-Star Game–the Pro Bowl–has become a punchline in recent years due to the lack of competitive play, it still remains a great honor to be selected, especially for young players.
Former UNC linebacker Zach Brown–a five-year NFL veteran who spent this season with the Buffalo Bills–found out Monday that he will be a part of the festivities this season for the first time in his career.
He’ll be playing for the AFC in this year’s game, which will take place in Orlando, Florida–instead of the traditional location in Hawaii.
Drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Brown spent his first four seasons as a pro with the Tennessee Titans, before signing with Buffalo during the offseason. When the Bills’ lost highly-rated rookie Reggie Ragland to an injury during training camp, Brown stepped in and filled the role admirably all year.
Brown ended up starting all 16 games for the Bills–another career first–while piling up a personal-best 97 tackles.
He was also not voted in to the Pro Bowl initially, but was invited as a replacement for New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower–who will miss the game in preparations for Super Bowl XLI against the Atlanta Falcons the week after.
This marks the best professional honor of Brown’s young career, likely surpassing the First Team All-ACC nod he received in 2011 after posting 105 tackles and 5.5 sacks for the Tar Heels.
A free agent this offseason, Brown’s Pro Bowl recognition should also command him a much higher salary on the open market than the $1.25 million Buffalo paid him in 2016.