Dec 27, 2012 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The day after Christmas brought with it one more present for Max Unger and his family.
Unger's parents had traveled from Kona to Washington to spend the holiday with Max and watch the Seattle Seahawks center play in the final two games of the regular season. Thus they were able to celebrate the Hawaii Preparatory Academy graduate's selection to the Pro Bowl together on Wednesday.
"It was pretty awesome," said Keith Unger, Max's father. "We knew the selection was happening (Wednesday) afternoon. So my wife and I tuned in and before we sat down, Max texted us and he said he made it. We were just so stoked."
Unger's first Pro Bowl berth as the NFC's starting center marked another step in his ascent in the game -- progressing from an All-State pick at HPA to an All-Pac-10 performer at Oregon to being recognized among the NFL's top linemen with a spot in the Jan. 27 game at Aloha Stadium.
"Going to Oregon and being able to play there and having some success, that in itself was a pretty big accomplishment for me," Unger said. "I never really saw myself getting voted into the Pro Bowl at any point in my career. But to have it happen, it was pretty special."
Unger said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gathered the team together after practice to make the announcement and his was the second name called after left tackle Russell Okung.
"It was pretty crazy," said Unger, one of five Seahawks named to the NFC roster. "I was pretty overwhelmed.
"I never looked at the other centers in the NFL or the NFC and really put a lot of energy into thinking about it. So when he said that it hit me pretty hard. I really wasn't expecting it."
Unger is the first Hawaii high school product to make a Pro Bowl roster since former Chicago Bears center Olin Kreutz was picked for the 2007 game, the last of his six selections.
"(Unger is) a great example for the kids around here and he keeps setting that bar higher and higher," HPA athletic director Stephen Perry said.
Unger, Seattle's second-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, is in his fourth season in the league and has started 15 games this season for a Seahawks offense that ranks second in the league in rushing with 161.7 yards per game and has averaged 50 points over the last three games.
"Touchdowns are pretty tough to come by in the NFL and we've been able for some reason to throw a ton of them up there these last couple weeks," Unger said.
"(Rookie quarterback) Russell Wilson's really playing lights out and (running back) Marshawn Lynch is having a heck of year and those guys do a lot of the heavy lifting in our offense and they've found a way to really make plays."
That play-making ability starts with the work of the offensive line, with Unger and Okung leading the way as Seattle enters Sunday's regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams at 10-5 and with a playoff berth secured.
"I really believe all five of our starters are deserving," Unger said. "I think we have a heck of a group and we've been able to string a bunch of games together having the same group of guys starting and I think it's really showing."
Unger never made the trip to Oahu to attend a Pro Bowl while growing up on the Big Island and last played in Aloha Stadium in 2002 for a state tournament game against Castle, which HPA lost 35-0.
While returning to play in Hawaii would be nice, Unger's hoping he'll be too busy to attend with the Super Bowl scheduled a week after the Pro Bowl.
"I would love to be able to not play in the game if we have another NFL-related obligation," he said.
"We're in the playoffs, which is pretty special. Everyone's pretty focused on that."
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