Not every great player is also a great leader. Not every great leader is a great player. The two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand—and there are plenty of examples of players going in one direction without possessing the other.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was both, even if his greatness as a player was more overtly obvious to the layman, as it always is, since so much of what is involved in ‘leadership’ takes place behind the scenes. But we have heard more than enough from his teammates over the years to understand with what regard he is held.
That esteem was certainly reflected in veteran All-Pro guard David DeCastro’s comments made after Pouncey’s retirement was announced, via Gerry Dulac, who shared the following quote on Twitter: “Pouncey’s resume speaks for itself. I’ll always remember him for his leadership. His commitment and passion for the game was unmatched. He set the standard everyday and made it easy to follow”.
An 11-year veteran, nine-time Pro Bowler, and six-time All-Pro, Pouncey for a period of time personified excellence at his position, and that will eventually put him in the running for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to be recognized as being among the greatest to ever play the game.
One thing that is often talked about when it comes to great players is their ability to make others great around them as well, and Pouncey did that for the offensive line. He was the nucleus of a complete rebuilding of the offensive line that began the day he was drafted in 2010, a process that began so immediately—he was an All-Pro as a rookie and they advanced to the Super Bowl—that they were already taking his advice on draft picks a year later, taking his college teammate, right tackle Marcus Gilbert, in the second round in 2011.
While he undoubtedly had some missteps along the way, both on and off the field, some of which a select subset of onlookers will always identify him with, the impact that he had on the team and on his teammates has been undeniable.
Pouncey was indisputably one of the most revered men in the locker room for more than a decade, somebody that others looked up to for inspiration, for motivation, for tips, for advice, for energy, for whatever they needed.
He wasn’t alone, of course, but he was part of that central hub of players who made up the leadership group in the locker room and tied the team together. I’m not going to say that he was perfect by any stretch, but the void he leaves behind will be apparent even to the outside onlooker.