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Twelve-year career enough to satisfy Strong

Tim Korte Associated Press

KIRKLAND, Wash. — Five or six years ago, Seattle fullback Mack Strong would have felt validated by a Pro Bowl appearance.

Not anymore. While the 12-year veteran would love to make the trip to Hawaii, he won’t feel shortchanged if it never happens. Funny thing is, he’s closer now than at any point earlier in his lengthy career.

“I used to feel like if I went, it would mean my time in the NFL wasn’t in vain. I don’t feel that way now,” said Strong, who, along with his Seahawk teammates, face St. Louis in a playoff game today.

“No matter what, this has been a great ride for me. There’s been a lot of successes and I’ve learned a lot. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

That’s not sour grapes from someone who came up short.

Strong is a Pro Bowl alternate this season, the best result he’s ever had in the voting. But he probably won’t make the trip because William Henderson of Green Bay, who got the nod, is making his first appearance and unlikely to beg out.

No biggie.

The way the 33-year-old Strong sees it, he has accomplished plenty just by making the Seattle roster as an undrafted free agent back in 1993, then surviving every training camp since then.

He has played on special teams, even this season, recording 80 tackles over the years. He even returned kickoffs until establishing himself as the starting fullback by the late 1990s.

“When I first got here, I was happy just to make the taxi squad,” Strong said. “I would have been happy to get one year or even two years. To get 12 years is surreal. It’s something I never fathomed.”

He’s endured his share of injuries, as well as two coaching changes that left him wondering if he’d fit with the new regimes.

Strong has scored only 14 touchdowns through all those years, but he has blocked for Shaun Alexander during his run of four straight 1,000-yard seasons, and he helped Ricky Watters to another.

If that’s not enough, Strong has earned the respect — no, the adoration — of his teammates, who tease him about his age, but couldn’t imagine anyone else clearing the running lanes and protecting the quarterback.

“Mack is the best fullback in the NFL, period,” Alexander said. “He’s a great man to watch and learn from, and that goes for him off the field, too. All around, he’s a person who’s a great example to others.”

Guard Chris Gray said: “Mack’s a great guy, one of the leaders of the team. He always works hard and he always leads by example. He takes pride in what he does. He always studies, always works on his technique.”

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