Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, soon to turn 26, and his twin brother, Mike Pouncey, understand that they have not always been the greatest role models to the children that they host for their annual foundation events in their home town of Lakeland, FL.
There were some questionable connections between the twins and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez during their college careers for the University of Florida, which culminated in their donning ‘Free Hernandez’ hats after he was first arrested a couple of years ago. There was a nightclub incident a year ago in which they were accused of assaulting people, though those charges were later dropped.
Individually, Maurkice caught fire during his rookie season for getting into an altercation with fans on Twitter for being on social media and promoting items after sitting out the Super Bowl. For his part, Mike was said to have played a role in ‘Bullygate’, the incident that left Jonathan Martin walking away from the team.
As most, hopefully, would, the Pouncey brothers have learned and grown from these experiences, as each has strived to become a leader not only with their organizations, but also in their own community, looking to give back to the town that gave them their head start.
The Pounceys recently spoke to Brady Frederickson of The Ledger in Lakeland at their Team Pouncey Foundation football camp, talking about how far they have come since some of their youthful indiscretions, and how it has shaped them into better leaders today.
Maurkice said that he is “glad” for his mistakes, saying that “you always got to learn in life. We were young … then, but we’re grown up and trying to be the positive role models — something for these kids back in Lakeland to look up to — and it means a lot to us”.
While they may have had their incidents here and there in the past, Maurkice talks of them as aberrations, not representative of who he sees himself to be. “Anytime we did get in trouble in the past, it hit us in the heart”, he said. “We learned the hard way”.
Perhaps some of that hard way goes back to their younger days in Lakeland, where it may not have always been so easy to choose to do the right thing, and that is why they consider it “a blessing” to give back to their home town.
“We grew up in the same streets as these kids” Mike said, “and when we come home, we look at all of these kids like they’re family to us”. To see the Pounceys come back to Lakeland, to see where they’ve gone from where they started, is valuable to these children, knowing that they were once in the same position.
But Maurkice and his brother want to show that you can succeed both on and off the field, and to do so, they must set the example, which he calls a process. “We try to do the right thing. We’re young still and we’re still growing every single day. I think these kids coming out and seeing us do the right things will help them out in life”.