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Staley Named to First Pro Bowl

Posted Dec 27, 2011

The once converted tight end from Central Michigan, who came to the San Francisco 49ers to play on the offensive line, is now amongst the game’s elite.

It was a goal Joe Staley set out five years ago as a rookie in the National Football League, and now he can cross it off the list. Eight members of the 2011 San Francisco 49ers, including Staley, have made their way on to the 2012 NFC Pro Bowl team.

Staley joins linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive tackle Justin Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers, punter Andy Lee and kicker David Akers as starters for the NFC squad. Running back Frank Gore and safety Dashon Goldson were selected as reserves.

Willis, Smith, Gore, Lee and Akers are all return Pro Bowl participants, while Staley, Rogers, and Goldson are new to the league’s annual All-Star game.

“It’s a great honor to have so many guys going,” Staley said, moments after he was informed of the news by coach Jim Harbaugh. “A lot of guys are deserving on this football team. I’m very happy for every single one of them.”

Staley, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle, has started all 65 games he’s played for the 49ers since they traded up to draft him. The once collegiate tight end, who was taken No. 28 overall in the 2007 NFL Draft out of Central Michigan, began his professional career at right tackle before switching to the left side of the line where he’s played the past four seasons.

Now, Staley is considered one of the league’s best linemen thanks to the fans, coaches and players who supplied the votes.

It’s a big honor for all the 49ers, including Staley who’s been a key cog in the franchise’s resurgence under Harbaugh.  Staley has recovered a fumble for a touchdown in his career. He’s even caught a pass for a 17-yard gain. Now, he can say he’s a member of the 2012 Pro Bowl team.

“When you enter the NFL you set a goal of trying to be one of the best players,” Staley said. “There are a lot of guys who deserve it and I’m just very thankful to be named.”

Other than San Francisco, only the New England Patriots can lay claim to having eight Pro Bowlers this year. The 49ers also have 10 Pro Bowl alternates, including starting center Jonathan Goodwin and left guard Mike Iupati.

“It’s a representation of our entire offensive line,” Staley added. “A lot of guys put in a lot of hard work. I couldn’t get this individual honor without the guys in that room and the coaches we’ve had this season. Mike Solari’s done a great job coaching up everybody, Tim Drevno as well.”

As the vocal leader of a 49ers offensive line, Staley and his teammates paved the way for Frank Gore’s 1,202 rushing yards and also helped quarterback Alex Smith have his most productive season of his seven-year career. This season, the 49ers are 9-0 when allowing two or fewer sacks.

And while Staley is honored to be selected to the Pro Bowl, he doesn’t want to play in the game, not when the 49ers will enter the playoffs as the NFC West champs. Staley plans on playing in another game (Super Bowl XLVI) which will deter him from playing in the NFL’s All-Star game in Hawaii.

“If we do go, which I hope we don’t,” Staley began, “I hope we’re in the Super Bowl… I’ll just practice in my shorts.”

Whether Staley and his teammates play in the game will be determined in the coming weeks, but either way, being selected with close friends and teammates was not lost on Staley.

The way Staley found out of his selection was equally as special as the honor itself.

“When coach announced it,” Staley said, “I was announced before Frank. Frank turned around and gave me the biggest cheer – he was very excited for me. (Frank) was announced next, so I did the same thing to him.”

Having so many representatives means a lot to the other 49ers captain, five-time Pro Bowler Patrick Willis.

“I remember when it was just me over there,” said Willis, who is now the only player in franchise history to start a career with five straight Pro Bowl selections. “Now, to have more of us be a part of it speaks a lot about our team. My hat goes off to this team and what we’ve done so far. But I know it’s not the end of what we’re trying to do. Our main goal is to get to the Super Bowl and to win it and that’s all of our mindsets.”

Staley agrees. Having the most Pro Bowlers in the NFC this year is a nice accomplishment, but won’t quite be a lasting statistic, especially not for the one-time tight end from Michigan.

“I never thought going to Central, I’d be playing offensive line or left tackle at all,” Staley admitted. “I’m very privileged to be in this position. I’ve had a lot of great coaches along the years.”

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