The AFC all-star status for Williams, concluding his fifth season with the Jets, and Gardner, wrapping up his second season in green and white, was announced tonight on NFL Network's Pro Bowl special, "NFL Total Access: Pro Bowl Players Revealed."
In the days leading up to the voting reveal, both former Jets first-round draft selections (Williams in 2019, Gardner in '22) said while winning awards was gratifying, other factors drove them to be included among the best at their positions and in the game.
"Right now I'm kind of shocked," Williams said after finding out Wednesday that he will not only be returning to the Pro Bowl but will be making Jets history in the process. "It's just pretty cool, man, to be around a bunch of great guys, great athletes from around the world. Year in and year out, you just work your tail off to win football games and do what you've got to do, so none of these accolades come to mind throughout the whole year because all you want to do is put your hard work in to help your team win football games. To be able to get recognized for my hard work is super dope."
"It's a blessing to be able to play this game I love and a blessing to be in the Pro Bowl," Gardner said of receiving his second PB invite in two pro seasons. "I know I wasn't No. 1 probably, I wasn't in the top five or top 10 in the fan voting. But to be recognized by the players and coaches, that let's me know everybody knows what I do."
See the best photos of CB Sauce Gardner & DL Quinnen Williams during their 2023 pro bowl season.
Q and Sauce were accorded the ultimate sign of NFL respect. Some of their key statistics went down as Williams was double-teamed up front all season while Gardner was targeted less and less as the weeks went by. Yet in the voting that concluded for fans on Dec. 25 and for players and coaches on Dec. 29, the two were selected to return to the Pro Bowl, which will culminate on Sunday, Feb. 4, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL.
As for the history alluded to above, Williams is the first Jets defensive lineman since John Abraham after the 2001 and '02 seasons to be named to back-to-back Pro Bowls and the first Jets interior DL to be selected for consecutive all-star honors since Joe Klecko went as a D-tackle and nose after the 1983-85 seasons.
"That's my guy right there," Williams said of Klecko, selected in February to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "Klecko and Marty Lyons, that's my 'Bama guy, and then Joe Namath. I'm pretty sure all the OGs are going to hit me up and congratulate me. Just to be able to put this jersey on that they put on also and represent them. The reason I signed back and why I go out there every single day is because guys like them set the standard in the NFL and for the Jets organization to do what they did and for me to do what I do today."
Gardner is one of only two players in franchise history to be named to Pro Bowls in each of his first two seasons. The other was S Erik McMillan, who went to Hawaii after the 1988 and '89 seasons.
"That's what I'm here for. I'm trying to make history, trying to make history every year," Gardner said of his latest stake in franchise history. "I know at the beginning of the season I was saying MVP, but I was just trolling, saying stuff like that. Reaching for the stars will make stuff like this happen ... two-time Pro Bowler."
Finally in Green & White history class, the same two Jets teammates are going together to back-to-back Pro Bowls for the first time since CB Darrelle Revis and C Nick Mangold were named to four consecutive Pro Bowls played after the 2008-11 seasons and were joined for the last three of those Pro Bowls by T D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
Besides Williams and Gardner, the Jets had six other players who finished strongly enough in the balloting to be named alternates at their positions. Kicker Greg Zuerlein and punter Thomas Morstead were named first alternates. MLB C.J. Mosley, who represented the Jets at last year's Pro Bowl, is a third alternate. RB Breece Hall, LB Quincy Williams and LB Jermaine Johnson are fifth alternates.
For the first time in three years, the NFL is returning to Orlando to celebrate the league's best players at the 2024 Pro Bowl Games presented by Verizon. The Pro Bowl Games provide fans with the opportunity to vote for their favorite players to compete in a multiday AFC vs. NFC competition, featuring Pro Bowl Skills and culminating for the second year with an interconference flag football game, led by head coaches Peyton and Eli Manning.