Jason Peters has always been a rarity, even at a position where exceptional athletes are the norm. The Eagles' left tackle played tight end at the University of Arkansas and went undrafted in 2004, despite being pegged for a likely position switch to offensive tackle due to his remarkable athleticism and movement skills for a man his size. He was signed by the Buffalo Bills and first made his mark as a one-man wrecking crew on special teams before making the transition to left tackle his second year and taking to the position immediately. Peters soon established himself as the best left tackle in the game and, seeking a new contract, was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2009 NFL Draft.
After some early struggles with the Eagles, Peters settled in and provided the franchise with everything it hoped for and more. His finest season came in 2011, when he dominated the competition with ease and reclaimed his status as the best left tackle in the NFL, helping running back LeSean McCoy rush for 1,309 yards and a team-record 17 touchdowns. Peters made his fifth straight Pro Bowl and fourth overall All-Pro team that season and was at the pinnacle of his career.
Then, disaster struck in the offseason, as Peters tore his Achilles' tendon during a workout and was ruled out for the 2012 season following surgery. Peters and the team held out hope that he might recover in time for the end of the season, but those hopes were dashed when he re-tore the tendon after the Roll-A-Bout he was using for transportation broke. His absence was devastating and played a significant role in the Eagles' collapse.
At 30 years old, many had doubts that Peters would recover at all, much less regain his old form. Peters, however, had no doubts and attacked his rehab like he would an overmatched linebacker at the second level. He was fully healed by the time Chip Kelly was named head coach, but it was not until Training Camp when he could finally test himself on the field.
"I felt like I was back going into Training Camp," Peters said. "Everybody was asking me how I felt during OTAs and I felt good. It happened, but I felt like it never happened because that's how good my body felt. But until you go out there and put the pads on and go to work against somebody else, you really don't know."
Despite suffering a dislocated finger and quadriceps injury along the way, Peters has gotten more comfortable and stronger as the season has progressed and is now playing his best football. He anchors an offensive line that has remained healthy and, as a unit, developed the kind of continuity and chemistry that has enabled it to pave the way for the NFL's top rushing attack and leading rusher in McCoy, who is on pace to set a new team single-season yardage record.
"He's by far the best lineman I've ever played with in my career, from high school to college to the pros," said fellow Pro Bowl selection LeSean McCoy. "He's a combination of speed, power, intelligence, you name it. The guy is terrific. I'm happy to play with him. I feel like he makes my job a lot easier."
Given what Peters went through to get to this point, he feels this is his most gratifying Pro Bowl selection yet.
"This one here is special because I had two Achilles surgeries and people thought I wasn't going to be able to even play football again," Peters said. "Especially after the second one, the doctor didn't think I was going to be able to play at a high level. He thought maybe I could come back and play, but not at a high level, so this one here is really special.
"I never took it for granted, every year I try to work to make the Pro Bowl, and I know if I'm working to make the Pro Bowl, the team is going to succeed. If I'm playing well, the guys besides me are playing well, as a team we're going to play well. Any time you make the Pro Bowl, you have other players around you who are going to play well too."
In fact, Peters wanted to know so bad if he made the Pro Bowl that he kept calling McCoy to see what he knew.
"I know he's happy because he kept calling me. 'Hey, have they called you yet? Do you know what's going on?' I'm like, 'No, man. I don't know.' This is the first year he's acted like that so this is big for him," McCoy said. "I know it is. He kept asking me, 'Do you know who made it?' He kept calling me and he never does that."