Rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase didn't have a Pro Bowl selection on his now-famous mirror where he puts his goals, but Wednesday's selection to the NFL all-star game reflects how far the Bengals have come this season.
For the first time in five years they placed at least three position players on the AFC team when running back Joe Mixon and right end Trey Hendrickson joined Chase as first-time Pro Bowlers for a team that is in first place in the AFC North at 8-6 with their most wins in six years.
"I just never really thought about it," said Chase of the Pro Bowl. "It's certainly an honor, but I guess the thing I'm focusing on is making the playoffs."
Hendrickson, a half-sack shy of tying Carlos Dunlap's club record 13.5 sacks, became the first Bengals free agent to make the Pro Bowl the year he signed in 25 years when cornerback Ashley Ambrose made it. Mixon, the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,094 yards, became the first Bengals running back to go Pro Bowling since Rudi Johnson in 2004.
Quarterback Joe Burrow and long snapper Clark Harris were named second alternates for the Feb. 6 game in Las Vegas. Left end Sam Hubbard and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi are fourth alternates and slot cornerback Mike Hilton is a fifth. Alternates are added to the game if a voted player in their position group is unable to participate. Selections from the two teams reaching the Super Bowl are among those unable to play, as well as injured players not cleared.
"It's a tremendous honor for our players to be recognized among the league's best by their peers, coaches and fans," said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor in a Bengals news release. "Ja'Marr, Trey and Joe have had terrific seasons, and their contributions both on and off the field have been critical for us all year long. Those three, as well as our players who were voted as alternates, are major reasons we are in position to achieve our goals this season."
Chase, who leads all NFL rookies with 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns, becomes the fourth Bengals rookie receiver to make it, following in the royal line of Isaac Curtis (1973), Cris Collinsworth (1981) and A.J. Green (2011). In 1970, cornerback Lemar Parrish also made it as a rookie, as did quarterback Andy Dalton in 2011.
Making the playoffs is one of the few things on Chase's list of goals that hasn't been checked.
"I've got the yards. I've got the catches," said Chase, who wanted 50 catches and 1,000 yards and leads the team with 61 catches. "I'm still looking for (12) the touchdowns."
Chase has already broken Curtis' 48-year-old Bengals rookie record of nine touchdowns and is 20 yards from breaking Green's rookie yardage record and seven catches from breaking the receptions record held by Collinsworth and tied by Tee Higgins last season.
There was no question who he would contact first.
"My parents," Chase said. "They've been telling me all year I was going to make it."