Antrel Rolle played up to the captain's patch on his jersey in 2013, and his peers noticed.
"Anytime that you can make this list, it's an extreme honor and extremely humbling," Rolle said this morning on NFL AM. "There are 53 players, 32 teams, so that's roughly around 1,700 players. So to make this list, I'm excited and I'm happy about it."
Prior to being named a defensive co-captain last season, Rolle was already a leader in the Giants' locker room, but he took his game to a new level on and off the field. The 10-year vet posted career highs in 2013 with 98 tackles, 12 passes defensed, six interceptions, and 2.0 sacks, eventually making the Pro Bowl roster.
"Coming into the season, he took on a new leadership role," said former Giants teammate and fellow safety Ryan Mundy, who signed with the Bears this offseason. "And I think that was really the catalyst that sparked his amazing 2013 campaign."
"He gets thrown around at every position," Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich added. "He plays free safety one game, he plays strong safety, he plays nickel, and the way he excels at each position is impressive. And he can come up in the box -- he's not a big guy -- but he can come up in the box and he'll make tackles."
Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin knows this well from the other side.
"He's an aggressive player," he said. "[Rolle's] a guy who's not afraid to come up and hit you."
While 2013 was a forgettable season as a whole for the Giants, Rolle played a large part in resuscitating the team back from a 0-6 start. Rolle and the Giants held it together, winning seven of their last 10 games, including a Week 8 trip to Philadelphia.
That's where Mundy said Rolle's impact stood out the most.
Photos from Antrel Rolle's Pro Bowl season.
"The one play that is standing out to me is the sack he got in Philly," Mundy said. "We're on the road, in a hostile environment, and we need something to set the tempo for the game. And Antrel comes blitzing off the corner, sacks Michael Vick. We were coming off a victory versus Minnesota, and we needed to start stringing wins together. And I think that play right there set the tempo for that game and really gave us a lifeline for our season. Antrel, I can't say enough about that guy."
The sack came midway through the first quarter of a 3-0 game in the Giants' favor, and Big Blue went on to score on its next three possessions for a 15-7 victory.
"When we needed a play, Antrel Rolle was there to make a play, whether it was a big third-down stop, whether it was an interception, a forced fumble," Mundy said. "Shoot, he was even in the backfield getting sacks."
Behind Romo, Rolle, and Welker, the players included in 71-80 were CB Tim Jennings (Bears), OT Joe Staley (49ers), LB Von Miller (Broncos), LB Clay Matthews (Packers), OT Tyron Smith (Cowboys), CB Aqib Talib (Broncos), and WR Pierre Garcon (Redskins).