Last year, Donald Penn broke through.
A former undrafted free agent, Penn made his first start as a virtual unknown in 2007 and steadily began raising his NFL profile. By 2008, he was entrenched as a starter, anchoring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line from the key left tackle spot. By 2009, he was gaining mention among the best offensive tackles in the league.
And in 2010 he cemented that reputation the best way possible, by earning his first Pro Bowl invitation.
Who might be the next Buccaneer to make that breakthrough? That may be up to you.
Balloting for the 2012 Pro Bowl has begun on NFL.com, kicking off an eight-week process that will serve as one-third of the all-star decision-making. The NFL is the only sports league that combines voting by fans, coaches and players to determine its all-star teams; coaches and players will cast their votes in December but football fans can get in on the action right away.
Click here to go to the Pro Bowl page on NFL.com, where you will find a link to open a ballot. You can vote as many times as you like. Thus, you can play a part in getting another Buccaneer over the same Pro Bowl hurdle that Donald Penn crossed last year, whether it be Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, Aqib Talib, Michael Koenen or any other of the team's rising young players.
And, perhaps, you can help Donald Penn make a repeat trip to Honolulu, where last year he became the first offensive tackle in Buccaneers history to be selected for the league's all-star game. Two other current Tampa Bay players have also represented the team in the Pro Bowl: cornerback Ronde Barber (2001, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008) and guard Davin Joseph (2008). In addition, tight end Kellen Winslow went to the Pro Bowl on the AFC side after the 2007 season while playing for the Cleveland Browns.
Fan balloting on NFL.com will conclude on Monday, December 19 at the end of that week's Monday Night Football contest. The AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters will be announced at 7:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, December 27 during a special Total Access show on NFL Network.