Bears guard Kyle Long will cap his rookie season by playing in the Pro Bowl this Sunday in Hawaii.
Originally selected as an alternate, the first-round draft pick will replace San Francisco 49ers guard Mike Iupati, who suffered a broken left ankle in Sunday's NFC Championship Game.
Long is grateful to the fans and players around the league who voted for him as well as to those he works closest with on the Bears.
"None of this would be possible had it not been for the guys around me, the veterans, the coaching staff, [coordinator] Aaron Kromer, [general manager] Phil Emery for giving me a chance and bringing me in here, and the fans for rallying around our team," Long said. "Our team is fun to watch and people tune in to watch us from all over the world."
Selected with the 20th pick in the draft, Long started all 16 games as a rookie after opening just five contests at the Division I college level in 2012 at Oregon.
The 6-6, 313-pounder was part of a revamped offensive line in 2013 that helped the Bears rank second in the NFL with 445 points and set franchise records with 6,109 total yards, 4,450 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns and 344 first downs.
Long is the first Bears rookie to be voted to the Pro Bowl since kick returner Johnny Knox in 2009, and the first offensive lineman since Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown in 2006. Not bad for a former top baseball prospect who entered the NFL with limited football experience.
"I never would have expected I would have gone to the Pro Bowl," Long said. "I never would have expected that I would have been playing for the Bears. I never would have expected that I would have gotten drafted out of Oregon. So this is all kind of a fantasy that I'm really living right now."
Long will be joined in the Pro Bowl by four Bears teammates: Running back Matt Forte, receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and cornerback Tim Jennings. The four players on offense are the most for the Bears since they also sent four in 1985 (running back Walter Payton, quarterback Jim McMahon, center Jay Hilgenberg and tackle Jimbo Covert).