Thursday, December 20, 2018

Missing Pro Bowls: Bobby Dillon, Doug Atkins, and Lee Roy Selmon

By John Turney
Doug Atkins
In social media over the last few days the subject of Pro Bowl alternates has come up in the wake of the NFL's Pro Bowl announcements. Many fans and/or reporters are posting about 'snubs' and who should or should not have made the Pro Bowl and if the alternates who are named get credit for their selections, etc.

Pro Bowl alternates, players in line to replace an injured player, began to be released to the media around 1979 or so. Teams were informed of alternates and the information made its way to the press. A drip at first then more and more of the alternates were made known as the years went by. 

The NFL had so-called alternates previously, but the identity was only revealed if someone on the original team was out with an injury. However, we know of three instances when a player was voted to the original team but never got credit for it because they were injured about the time the teams were named and the NFL simply replaced them without giving them the honor of making the team. They were simply replaced by an alternate and the alternate was announced as having been named to the team. No one was the wiser. 

The practice beginning in 1979 was the leading voter-getters from the NFL's voting process (which was and still is murky) are announced and if any of them cannot participate in the game an alternate replaces them and the original player gets credit for making the Pro Bowl and the alternate does, too. 
Bobby Dillon
Here are the three cases we know of in which a player was informed he was on the team but got injured and was replaced before the official announcement of the Pro Bowl team—

In 1953 Bobby Dillon injured a knee in a Thanksgiving Game against the Lions and missed the final two weeks of the season. At the time he had nine interceptions and was getting media notice. Dillon told author Jerry Poling that he was told he made the 1953 Pro Bowl and was going to be replaced because he wasn't going to be able to play. He got no credit for being voted to the team that season.

Doug Atkins told us years ago that the same thing happened to him in 1968. He was having a monster comeback season in his first year with the Saints and in the 11th game of the season, he got a hairline fracture in his leg. When the Pro Bowl teams were going to be announced a Saints official approached him and wanted to know the status of the leg since the league wanted to know if he'd be available to play in the Pro Bowl. Atkins reported that he told the official, "Don't tell them anything, I may be able to play by then". It mattered because the Pro Bowl was an extra paycheck and players needed every dollar, not being paid as they are now. 

Well, apparently the NFL did find out that the injury was serious enough to keep him out of the game and he was never credited with that selection, he was just replaced by the Steelers Ben McGee
Lee Roy Selmon
A very similar scenario happened with Lee Roy Selmon. In 1996, when we questioned him about his 1978 he told us he was voted to the Pro Bowl team that year, but not credited with it, they just promoted Harvey Martin to the team. Martin followed Selmon in the voting and was the first alternate.

There may be some others we've not yet found, there almost has to be. 

So, while not official, when we cite Pro Bowls we always add in these picks for these players with an asterisk stating they made the team but were not given the proper credit, for whatever credit the selections are worth. 


  1. Great article. Always wondered about Selmon in 78.

    1. I saw your question and I am sure I wrote this some time ago, but could not find it. Could have been for Pro Football Weekly or C&PFN ... anyway, it's similar to what I wrote before

  2. Now let's review the play-by-plays and expand sack totals.