This is the first Pro Bowl trips Raiders left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson will make. The two were the Raiders’ top free agent acquisitions the past two offseasons; Osemele this year and Hudson in 2015.
The Raiders made both of them the highest paid player at their position. Both had been Pro Bowl caliber players on playoff teams before arriving, but had yet to get the invite to the All Star game. Now they have.
“It means a lot, man,” said Hudson of his first Pro Bowl nod. “It’s a great honor to be recognized for what you do. It’s very humbling, very great. I give a lot of thanks to our teammates because you can’t do any of it by yourself. I thank all my teammates for being there with us and ultimately helping us have success.”
Said Osemele of Hudson; “It’s like having two quarterbacks out there. By the time we come in for our meeting on Wednesday, these guys have already met like a few times and the coaches are sitting there asking these guys how they want to handle things. So, from a standpoint of awareness of like what’s going on with the defense and stuff like that, he’s got to be probably one of the sharpest centers I’ve ever been around and on top of that an athletic one at that, that can get out there and play and make blocks too, not just a guy that’s a smart guy. He can play the game, too. So, yeah, we have some weapons.”
Hudson did great work at center in 2015 with the Raiders, but none of the linemen received any notice from the Pro Bowl that season. With the addition of Osemele, the line is considered one of the best in the league.
Hudson said of Osemele “[He] plays hard, plays aggressive no matter what part of what game it is or what, he plays physical, aggressive and he’s a great player, obviously. Brought a lot to our room. So, we’re happy to have him.”
“Everybody, everybody feeds off of him. Everybody feeds off him. We always have this thing in our room trying to get the most knockdowns. So, he gets a lot. A crazy amount. (laughter) So, it’s good for the room, good for the room.”
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Osemele added. “I know that’s something that as an offensive line, you’re trying to make it every year. I know personally, I had a chip on my shoulder to try to get in there. To have guys like Latavius [Murray] on your team and pretty much a supporting cast like we do, it makes it a lot easier because everybody just works so hard. It’s just great. It’s a great honor.”
Joining Osemele and Hudson is Donald Penn, who is making his second trip, last being named to the team in 2010.
“It’s great, he’s passionate,” Osemele said of Penn. “It’s funny playing next to him because you know, some of the stuff he says during the game just makes it fun. We just have a good group. We just have a good line, man. We have a good group and we just make it fun. We like to compete, so playing with a vet [veteran] like Donald, that’s what you want. You want to be playing next to a guy like that then playing with someone that you’re constantly trying to pick up or anything like that. With me and him, it’s like constantly elevating each other’s level of play. It’s been dope, it’s been good.”
Right guard Gabe Jackson was named an alternate, making it potentially four Pro Bowl linemen before all is said and done. That would mean three first time Pro Bowlers and four total out of five.
“Guys put in a lot of work,” Hudson said of how the Raiders have so much of the offensive line at the Pro Bowl. “A lot of work to stay together, stay focused week to week, day to day, and just lean on each other. Not only us, but the team. It takes a whole group to put together good performances. We just stayed focused day to day and worked hard and lean on each other.”
“It’s awesome, man. Like I said, those guys are smart and experienced. [They] pay attention to detail. They come to work every day and work hard, study. That way we can anticipate and play faster.”
Every player wants the honor of being named to the Pro Bowl, while no player wants to play in the game. Because if you’re in the Pro Bowl in Orlando, you’re not in Houston preparing for the Super Bowl.
“Obviously, we’re focused on trying to win a Super Bowl, so hopefully we’re not playing in this game,” said Osemele. “Just the fact that you have seven guys on the same team, that just kind of shows you the work that we’ve put in from OTAs on forward. It’s been awesome.”