BY GEOFF HOBSON
Running back Corey Dillon straight-armed his way into a second straight Pro Bowl Thursday morning when he was the only Bengal named to the AFC team.
Dillon, in the midst of the club's best rushing season ever with 1,320 yards that includes an NFL-record 278 against Denver, completed a rags-to-riches season that would have been rejected by any Hollywood scriptwriter as too fantastic.
Dillon now finishes the story in Hawaii in becoming the first Bengals running back to go to back-to-back Pro Bowls since James Brooks from 1988-90.
"The Lord has been good to me," Dillon said. "I thank all those guys who have been blocking for me. The offensive line, the receivers, the tight ends, the other backs."
Running backs coach Jim Anderson, who sent Brooks and Harold Green to Hawaii before Dillon, had been crossing his fingers for weeks.
"It's one of the things I'm really thinking about for his sake," said Anderson a few days ago. "I really want him to make it because he's worked hard and matured not only as a player, but he's grown up in other ways, too, and I'd like to see him rewarded."
After last season's finale against Jacksonville, Dillon vowed the last time he would wear a Bengals helmet would be in the Pro Bowl. Dillon later threatened to hold out for the first 10 games of the season, but a bitter offseason of contract negotiations ended after the first preseason game when Dillon signed a one-year deal for $3 million.
Then a few weeks later in late August, he was arrested for investigation of fourth-degree assault after an incident involving his wife. The case is to be heard next month in Federal Way, Wash.
But the couple has reconciled and Desiree Dillon and daughter Cameron were on hand Oct. 22 at Paul Brown Stadium to watch Dillon lead the Bengals to their first victory of the season, 31-21 over the Broncos, with Dillon breaking Walter Payton's NFL record with 278 yards.
After the game, Dillon acknowledged his Born Again faith had helped him through the tough times. Two weeks ago, he became the first Bengal and eighth player in NFL history to rush for two 200-yard games in a season when he put up 216 at PBS against Arizona in a 24-13 victory.
During this season, he not only broke Brooks' season rushing record, but also his club record of 17 100-yard games and Pete Johnson's record for carries as he works off 282.