Casey Hayward was emotional when he made the Pro Bowl for the very first time a year ago.
However, those emotions pale in comparison to how the cornerback feels after being selected to represent the AFC for the second consecutive season.
As he explains, there are plenty of people who make one Pro Bowl in their career. While that is a high honor, making multiple appearances showcases a sustained level of play.
"This is even more meaningful to make it this year," he explained shortly after getting the call. "Everybody says the first one is the hardest to make. It was important to me to go again. To do it back-to-back years shows I'm locked in. I wanted to make sure last offseason I made it back so people could say, 'He made it multiple years.' I didn't want people to say, 'Well, he only made it once.' It means a lot that the fans, coaches and my peers around the league felt that way about me. To go back-to-back, it's definitely special for me."
Just how good has Hayward been this season?
The cornerback leads the entire NFL with 20 passes defensed while ranking seventh with four interceptions. He's also spearheaded a secondary that has not allowed a single 100-yard receiver all year and ranks fourth in the NFL against the pass.
In addition, Hayward was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November after leading the Bolts to a 3-1 record. Over that span, he posted eight solo tackles, including a tackle for loss, three INTs and nine passes defensed.
The lockdown corner is one of four Chargers named to the AFC team, which is tied for the second-most in the conference behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. Philip Rivers was named a Pro Bowler for the sixth time, while this marks the first appearances for Keenan Allen and Joey Bosa.
"I'm so excited for Keenan, Joey and Phil," Hayward said. "This team and organization is pulling in the right direction. To be a good team in this league, you've got to have good Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame-type players. We have two Hall of Fame players, and now we've got four Pro Bowlers this year."
In addition, the Bolts have four alternates with a chance to play in Orlando in DE Melvin Ingram (first), OT Russell Okung (second), RB Melvin Gordon (second) and DT Corey Liuget (fifth).
"Hopefully we get some more because we have some alternates who deserve it as well," Hayward said. "It just shows the direction that the organization is going."
To that end, Hayward hopes not a single Charger makes it to Orlando.
Instead of representing the AFC in the Pro Bowl, he hopes the entire team represents the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The Chargers must win out and receive help for a couple teams, but their ultimate goal is still a possibility.
"We've still got two more weeks, and there are things that need to be put in place in order to make it, but we're going to try to do what we've got to do on our end so we'll be in Minnesota and ` Orlando. We'll let the chips fall where they fall."