View the best photos of S Harrison Smith, after he signed his contract extension with the Vikings on Monday.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings safety Harrison Smith wanted nothing more than to be playing in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Finding out he's headed to his first career Pro Bowl, though, is a small consolation prize.
Smith will be replacing Seahawks safety Earl Thomas at the Pro Bowl on Jan. 31. Thomas is out due to injury.
"[The Pro Bowl] isn't what I think about when I go out to play. I just go out and look for the win. I wish we were playing this weekend. I wish we were playing two weekends from now," Smith said. "That's why we play, that's what we were doing with the Vikings. That's where everybody's mindset is."
Smith said he's excited to play in the Pro Bowl and represent the Vikings, especially for the fans that have supported him and voted for Smith to make the trip. For them, it's better late than never.
"It's obviously an honor to have that much support from the Vikings fans who always watch the games, who vote for us for things like this," Smith said. "I think it makes the fans proud and makes the organization proud when we can get some guys into these games."
Smith, who will join running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Everson Griffen, said he considers it an opportunity to generate more exposure for the Vikings.
"Getting the Vikings talked about and on more of the stage we want to be," Smith said. "We want to be on the prime time stage playing for prime time trophies. These awards are not what the number one goal is, but I think they help us along that path."
The 2015 season marked Smith's fourth with the Vikings. During the year, he recorded 87 tackles (56 solo), six quarterback hurries, three tackles for loss, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
In Week 16, Smith snagged his 12th career interception off Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the second quarter and returned it 35 yards to the end zone. With the play, Smith set a franchise record for career interception-return touchdowns (four).
Since entering the league, Smith is one of just two players – the other being Dolphins safety Reshad Jones – to record at least 12 interceptions and 5.0 sacks. Jones was also added to the Pro Bowl roster Sunday.
Smith is the first Vikings defensive back to be on a Pro Bowl roster since former cornerback Antoine Winfield in 2010. Overall, he is the eighth Vikings safety to be named to the Pro Bowl.
Winfield's final season in Minnesota overlapped with Smith's rookie season, and Smith is honored to follow up a player he refers to as his idol. Smith said he strove to model himself after Winfield in both the way he carried himself and the way he played.
"I learned so much from [Antoine]," Smith said. "Appreciating who he was not only as a player but as a guy in the building that people respected, a guy in the community that people respected."
Griffen also received his first Pro Bowl nod, and Peterson will be making his seventh Pro Bowl appearance. Smith's first thought after getting the invitation?
Reuniting with his teammates.
"As soon as you leave the locker room, leave the building, you start missing it," Smith said. "You start missing the kind of chemistry that we had as a team. So it will be good to see some of them again, even though it's only been a week."
Griffen sent Smith a text message Sunday afternoon to congratulate him and, per usual, poke a bit of fun.
"He asked me if I've been working out," Smith said, laughing. "I might have to sneak one [workout] in."
With the announcement, Smith became the ninth Viking drafted General Manager Rick Spielman to earn a combined 15th Pro Bowl honors. Kicker Blair Walsh and tackle Matt Kalil both made the trip as rookies. The others include wide receiver Sidney Rice (2009), wide receiver Percy Harvin (2009), tight end Kyle Rudolph (2012) and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (2013).
VIKINGS DRAFTED BY RICK SPIELMAN TO THE PRO BOWL
7 - Adrian Peterson (2007-10, '12, '13, 15)
1 - Sidney Rice (2009)
1 - Percy Harvin (2009)
1 - Kyle Rudolph (2012)
1 - Blair Walsh (2012)
1 - Matt Kalil (2012)
1 - Cordarrelle Patterson (2013)
1 - Everson Griffen (2015)
1 - Harrison Smith (2015)