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Donald, Hekker Elected to 2017 Pro Bowl

Posted Dec 20, 2016

Rams DT Aaron Donald and P Johnny Hekker have each made the third Pro Bowl of their careers for their outstanding 2016 seasons.

The Rams will have two representatives at the 2017 Pro Bowl, as defensive tackle Aaron Donald and punter Johnny Hekker were both elected to the NFL’s All-Star Game.

In his third season out of Pitt, Donald has now been a Pro Bowl selection in each year of his career. Through 14 games, Donald leads the league with 29 quarterback hits and is tied for the league lead with 16 tackles for loss. The defensive tackle also has 7.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Donald has appeared in all 46 games for which he’s been eligible since  including starting the last 42. He’s recorded 27.0 sacks in his young career.

"It’s definitely a big accomplishment," Donald said. "Anytime you get rewarded for all the hard work you put into this game, you’re going to be happy about it. It’s definitely a big deal. I’m excited about it — my family’s excited about it. So, the season hasn’t happened how we wanted it to happen. But, like I always say, hard work pays off and this just paid off."

“It’s quite the sight to behold — watching Aaron dismantle a double and triple team out there,” Hekker said Tuesday. “You can tell that other teams offensive coordinators have a gameplan for Aaron Donald, and he’s still a game-wrecker, despite the doubles and triples — things they throw at him, ways they try to quell his rush.”

As for Hekker, this is the punter’s third Pro Bowl, having been elected for his 2013 and 2015 seasons. He is on the verge of breaking an NFL single-season record for punts downed inside the 20, having already tied the mark at 46. Though he’s made 83 punts, he’s still No. 1 in net average at 46.2 yards — 2.3-yards ahead of Detroit’s Sam Martin at No. 2. Hekker’s also recorded just one touchback this season, a particularly strong feat given his number of punts.

“I think it’s a huge honor,” Hekker said of making his third Pro Bowl. “I’m so grateful to be playing under coach Fassel and with the rest of this special teams group that takes so much pride in what we do. And I really, really owe it to the other guys who go out there and make me look good on a consistent basis.”

And according to Hekker, the fact that his fellow players have helped elect him makes the honor mean that much more.

“Yeah, definitely. I’m really mostly concerned with the respect and recognition of my teammates and coaches here,” Hekker said. “But I respect the heck out of all the other 31 punters in the NFL. We’re working hard to perfect our craft, and get better, and influence field position. So to get that recognition means quite a bit. There’s only so many opportunities we get to go out and prove that what we’re doing is the stuff, and we’re growing, and moving in the right direction.”

The 2017 Pro Bowl will be played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, Jan. 29. ESPN will televise the matchup between the AFC and NFC teams.