Wilson alum and eighth-year Cleveland Brown star offensive lineman Joel Bitonio was recently named to the NFL’s Pro Bowl, his fourth time earning the honor. Bitonio is the longest-tenured Browns player and is the first player for the team to make four consecutive Pro Bowls since 1971.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Bitonio. “It’s the fourth one but every time it’s still surreal. You see your name pop up or your GM calls you. It’s surreal and it’s a weird kind of big picture thing because everything is week to week during the season and then you hear about the Pro Bowl. It’s nice to know I have respect from the league and the fans, I got to celebrate it with my wife and kids, it was great.”
Bitonio was the leading vote-getter in the NFL out of all guards. He’s been the definition of consistent, not missing a snap since 2016. Despite being in a great spot professionally and having checked off quite a few individual goals, Bitonio said the fire hasn’t dimmed at all as far as continuing to improve.
“Some individual goals have been met but there’s always stuff I want to work on,” he said. “I watch film and nitpick and see stuff I’m trying to fix. It’s always a challenge.”
Bitonio’s other goals are to finish his career in Cleveland and to help continue to lead the charge as the Browns get better year by year.
“This year didn’t go great for us, we had higher expectations,” he said. “I want to be part of that change where we’re expected to make the playoffs every year.”
Bitonio’s Pro Bowl honor this year puts him in rare company. He’s in a tie for second-most Pro Bowl appearances of any Long Beach product, with Millikan alum Gary Garrison. Recently-retired Long Beach Poly alum Jurrell Casey had five Pro Bowl appearances with the Titans, and is the only player out in front of Bitonio at this point. Norm Standlee is the only other Wilson alum with multiple Pro Bowl appearances, making it in 1941 and 1950.
Bitonio’s hoping that this year’s Pro Bowl happens, after last year’s was canceled over COVID-19 concerns. That way his wife and kids could come.
“The last two years have been a whirlwind with COVID, and we had a baby so we weren’t traveling,” he said. “I haven’t been able to get home–we did have a lot of family at the game in Inglewood against the Chargers which was great because it was my 100th start.”
This year’s Pro Bowl will be held at the Raiders Stadium in Las Vegas on Feb. 6 at noon and will be televised on ESPN.