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Thomas Davis finally earning Pro Bowl recognition

After a decade as one of the NFL's most underappreciated stars, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is finally garnering the recognition he deserves.

Propelled by Carolina's flawless 8-0 start, Davis is first among outside linebackers in the early Pro Bowl balloting.

The 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year joins middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, cornerback Josh Norman and center Ryan Kalil as Panthers leading their respective positions in voting.

"I ain't going to lie, I'm excited about it," Davis said Thursday, via the team's official website. "It's still early in the voting process, but hey, I'll take it."

In addition to leading the team with 65 tackles, Davis has also registered three sacks and three interceptions. His fundamentals are so sound that an undisclosed NFL coach recently phoned defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to lavish praise on Davis.

Davis has played at a Pro Bowl level for three years since overcoming his third ACL surgery. His relative anonymity is due to two primary factors: The Panthers are perennially overlooked on the national football news scene and linebackers in 4-3 defenses are perennially overshadowed by 3-4 edge rushers in Pro Bowl balloting.

"Now he's starting to get the recognition and the notoriety, and he deserves it," coach Ron Rivera said Thursday, via the Charlotte Observer. "Based on the way he's played the last three seasons -- coming back from a third knee (surgery) -- it's about time."

It's hard to ignore 12 consecutive regular-season victories, with Davis and Kuechly leading the charge -- just as they did in Carolina's impressive 12-4 campaign two years ago.

"His story is one they could make movie out of," Rivera said of the 32-year-old Davis. "To see him go through what he did (three torn ACLs), it was heart-wrenching personally.

"This is what it's about as a coach, when you have young men that succeed like that."

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