Travis Frederick still remembers his first Pro Bowl selection. In fact, he remembers each of his first four, but none of them carried the significance of being selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl.
"Each one brings its own unique feeling to it," Frederick said on Wednesday. "But after everything I've been through, this one means a lot to me."
The honor comes after being forced to take a year away from the field due to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that cost Frederick the entire 2018 season. Returning to the NFL and competing against the strongest, quickest, most physical athletes in the world after a disease had reduced him to barely being able to walk is perhaps the league's most impressive story this season.
"The work that he put in in the offseason and through training camp and throughout the year to get back to where he's been is pretty incredible," said Zack Martin, who was also selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl from the Cowboys' offensive line.
It's why Frederick has as good a case as any to be awarded the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award. While sitting out the 2018 season, Frederick, who was also nominated for this year's NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, wasn't strong enough to even lift weights or participate in any practices. It was jarring for his teammates to see such a reliable player and leader stripped of all his physical talents.
"I know last year had to be scary for him," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "It was scary for me. Just to see where he was and how far he's come, being able to come back and play at such a high level and make the Pro Bowl, that's crazy."
As trying as the disease was, Frederick claims that the experience has actually given him an advantage going forward. While his physical body was significantly limited, he was able to attend practices and study film and technique with his teammates and coaches like he never had before.
"I think my ceiling has moved up a little bit," Frederick said. "That year helped me learn a lot about the game and [be more cerebral with my] approach to the game."
Despite the honor, Frederick believes that he hasn't played up to what his potential could be this year, but he's improving every week. His presence alone is a big part in helping the Cowboys execute their game plan.
"His impact is significant," head coach Jason Garrett said. "Not only physically, but his ability to communicate and get everybody on the same page is critical."
If the five-time Pro Bowler's return to form has been an ongoing process, then it seems to be cresting at the right time. The Cowboys rushed for 263 yards in a 44-21 win over the Rams last Sunday. Those yards start with the offensive line, and those results are something that Frederick expects from the Cowboys going forward.
"I think our identity comes in having a well-balanced, explosive offense that has the ability to make plays in both the run and the passing game," Frederick said.