Pittsburgh Steelers Center Maurkice Pouncey has come a long way since his days as a Florida Gator when the longest he had spent away from his twin brother, Miami Dolphins player Mike Pouncey, was three days and to prepare for their eventual separation decided to live next door to him instead of as his roommate.
Pouncey has come into his own not only as one of the best centers in the NFL, but also as a team leader. Pouncey told Mark Kaboly that he is still haunted by his 2013 season-ending injury: "I told coach that I didn't want to go on PUP. It (stinks) watching. It is hard sitting there and watching. I didn't want to do it. I saw what it was like not being able to play, I saw what it was like to retire and I saw what it was like not being able to run out of the tunnel with the guys before. That was a terrible feeling."
Using that devastating experience as motivation, Pouncey now values the game more than ever. He also noted that the 2013 injury helped him develop into a better leader. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak explained, again via Mark Kaboly, "When you aren't there, you grow into the role as a leader more because you are trying to stay involved and have more time in seeing the big picture."
After this years draft, Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert took five undrafted rookie lineman to dinner.
Recently some teams have received negative publicity for forcing rookies to treat veterans to dinner. Gilbert and Pouncey reversed that tradition, embraced their leadership role, and picked up the tab for the younger guys. At the time Pouncey told Steelers.com, "I just think it is my time to start looking after the young guys, time to breed them. All the kids look good and listen well. They are a fun group. They like to laugh a lot. I like them."
Rookie B.J. Finney appreciated the gesture and the guidance saying, "For those guys to reach out to us and let us know they were here for us to help us out, if we had questions we could come to them. They welcomed us to Pittsburgh from a veteran standpoint."
Antonio Brown also agrees Pouncey has become a strong leader, saying last year, "He's the ultimate leader. He is a great guy. Any time he is out there on the field he is the general.... His intensity and leadership provide a spark for the team, not just the offensive line, but the quarter back, receivers and running backs. He sparks the whole team."
Pouncey's leadership has contributed to the Steelers dominance on the offensive side of the ball and will continue to benefit both rookies and the team as a whole.