ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A year ago, Pat Surtain II fell short.
As a rookie in 2021, Surtain posted four interceptions but was named a first alternate for the 2022 Pro Bowl.
History did not repeat itself, as Surtain was named a starter for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games on Wednesday.
"Obviously I was happy, because it was my first one," Surtain told DenverBroncos.com. "The first one is something that's going to be very memorable. I was very excited, very happy. It's only the beginning. I was just waiting for that first one. Obviously last year I fell short — [as a first] alternate — so this year I had to do a little bit more. It was just an exciting feeling."
Surtain has been among the league's most dominant cornerbacks for much of the season, and he joins the Jets' Sauce Gardner as starters for the AFC team. The Broncos' standout cornerback turned in strong performances against a number of his teams, but he counts his games against San Francisco in Week 3 and Las Vegas in Week 4 as his best performances. Surtain limited former All-Pro Deebo Samuel and 2023 Pro Bowler Davante Adams in back-to-back performances as he began his Pro Bowl campaign.
"I think I've put a lot of good stuff on tape for them to see," Surtain said. "Obviously when I go on the field, I try to of course leave my best performance. I'm just happy that they got a chance to recognize my gameplay and recognize me as one of the best players in the league at my position."
And while Surtain did not record an interception until Week 14, coaches and players around the league recognized his season-long excellence.
"When I get that acknowledgement from players and coaches around the league, that speaks volumes," Surtain said. "That goes to show my play and how they looked at it. It just means a lot coming from my peers, from coaches, from executives around the league. When you get props like that from around the league, it means a lot."
Surtain said that despite that lack of interceptions, he still believed he would be selected to the Pro Bowl Games.
"Interceptions are not the end all, be all," Surtain said. "There's a lot that goes into a corner's game, regardless of the interceptions — whether it's technique or what he does on an island. I'm just thankful to be in this position. The coaches put me in positions to succeed — Coach 'E' [Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero]. When we've got a great defense, everybody's successful in that defense. There's just so many people I could thank just going towards making this season so special."
In earning his first Pro Bowl nod, Surtain is now a third of the way to his father's career total. Patrick Surtain recorded three Pro Bowl nods during his career with the Dolphins and Chiefs, and his son has taken a step toward matching that resume.
"He was very excited," said the younger Surtain of his dad's reaction. "He was always telling me, 'You're close to reaching me, as far as Pro Bowls. This is an early jump for you.' At the end of the day, he's proud of me and what I've accomplished. He was [part of] my journey the whole way, watching me grow into who I am today."
Surtain said both of his parents celebrated the moment, and he credited them for standing alongside him.
"My parents were always there for me," Surtain said. "This is what I dreamed about — getting accolades like this and playing at a high level on the big stage. They're just very excited for me for this opportunity, for this accomplishment. They're always going to be there with me, no matter what, so they were very excited."
In making the Pro Bowl in his second season, Surtain has made history. He is the first cornerback in franchise history to earn starting honors in the second year of his career, and he's just the sixth cornerback in team history to ever make the Pro Bowl.
Surtain is also keeping pace with one of the best defenders in Broncos history; Champ Bailey, to whom Surtain has drawn comparisons, made his first Pro Bowl in his second NFL season, albeit with Washington.
"I watch Champ film on the daily," Surtain said. "The plays that he made was remarkable. Obviously he had a heck of a career, being a Hall of Famer. With me, I don't try to compare too much, of course. Obviously he left his legacy. I'm just trying to leave my legacy the best way I can."
For Surtain to approach Bailey, he'll need to stack Pro Bowl nods in the coming seasons. And after missing out on the honor in 2021, Surtain has taken a step in that direction.
"This is the first of many, I'm [hoping], for me," Surtain said. "I'll just look to get better each and every day for years to come."