Vincent Jackson played the 2011 season in blue and gold and the 2012 campaign in pewter and red, but in both cases he had one final game to play in red, white and blue.
Jackson, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' prize catch in free agency last March, took only one season in the NFC to establish himself as Pro Bowler, an honor he also earned in the AFC in 2009 and 2011. On Tuesday, the NFL announced that Jackson will be replacing Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson in this year's all-star game; Johnson is unable to participate due to injury.
Jackson's impact on his new team and conference was nearly unprecedented. In fact, he and the Bears' Brandon Marshall, who was traded from Miami to Chicago during the 2012 offseason, are the first two receivers since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to make the Pro Bowl for both the AFC and the NFC in back-to-back seasons.
The Buccaneers will now have at least two players in this year's Pro Bowl, as defensive tackle was named to the team in December. Rookie Doug Martin remains the NFC's first alternate at running back and would also be added to the Pro Bowl roster if any of the three backs on the squad are unable to play. San Francisco's Frank Gore, one of those three, would necessarily be unavailable if the 49ers win the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta this Sunday.
Jackson's third Pro Bowl berth is well-deserved. Stepping immediately into the number-one receiver role in the Bucs' offense, he led the team with 72 catches and 1,384 yards, adding eight touchdowns. Jackson led the entire NFL with an average of 19.2 yards per catch and was third in the NFC in yards, behind only the record-setting Johnson (1,964) and Marshall (1,508). In Week Seven against New Orleans, Jackson set single-game franchise record with 216 receiving yards. His presence also unlocked opportunities for fellow Buccaneer pass-catchers, as the team set a franchise record with 4,065 passing yards in 2012.
Vincent Jackson is just the fourth Buccaneer wide receiver to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl, and the first since Keenan McCardell in 2003. Jackson's final yardage total was the second-best mark in franchise history, just behind the 1,422 that sent Mark Carrier to the Pro Bowl in 1989. Keyshawn Johnson also played in the league's all-star game following the 2011 campaign.
The Buccaneers will be sending multiple players to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2008, when they were represented by Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Davin Joseph and Clifton Smith. McCoy will be playing in his first Pro Bowl after just his third NFL campaign.
In last year's Pro Bowl, Vincent Jackson caught four passes for 64 yards and added a seven-yard rush as the AFC won, 59-41. In his first all-star game, following the 2009 season, Jackson led all players with seven catches for 122 yards and scored on a 48-yard pass from David Garrard in another AFC victory, this one a 41-34 decision.
The 2013 Pro Bowl will be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu on Sunday, January 27. The game will be televised nationally by NBC with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m. ET.