Wilson alum Joel Bitonio has had a historic season this year with the Cleveland Browns. Bitonio, who has spent all seven years of his NFL career in Cleveland, was announced as a Pro Bowl honoree this week, marking his third consecutive Pro Bowl recognition.
That’s significant because he becomes the first-ever Wilson alum to make three Pro Bowls, passing Norm Standlee. Standlee was a Wilson alum who played for the Bears and 49ers from 1941-1952 (missing some years in the middle to serve in World War II), earning two Pro Bowl nods and winning an NFL title in 1941 in Chicago.
Bitonio not only passed Standlee in Pro Bowl honors this year, he also passed him in NFL games played; Bitonio, with 95 games played, officially has the longest and most decorated pro football career of any Wilson alum in history.
“That’s pretty cool, that’s like 100 year history too,” said Bitonio. “Crazy.”
Bitonio is now tied with DeSean Jackson for second-most Pro Bowls in Long Beach history, trailing only Jurrell Casey, the Poly alum who has five Pro Bowls, all with the Titans.
Bitonio is Pro Football Focus’ top-rated offensive guard in the entire NFL, and has missed only one snap for the Browns all season. His significance to the franchise can’t be overstated–he’s the first Brown to be selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls since the early 1960s, and he’s helped spearhead a historic turnaround for the Browns.
From 2016 to 2017, Bitonio and the Browns won just one game, as he was sidelined with injuries. The Browns are now 10-5 and in position to make their first NFL playoffs since 2002, although those chances took a hit when they lost to the one-win Jets last weekend.
Cleveland needs to win against the Steelers this Sunday to clinch a playoff berth, or have the Colts lose. If they can get into the playoffs for the first time since Bitonio was 11 years old, they’ll have a chance to win their first postseason game since 1994, when he was just a toddler.
“We’ve been through some tough seasons,” Bitonio said. “It took me like four years to win 10 games at the start. Now to get to experience a winning culture and just be on a winning program, it’s something you dreamed of.”