Maurkice Pouncey makes the NFL Pro Bowl

The former Gator was one of four rookies to make it.

Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, a former Florida Gator, is all smiles after the Steelers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (The Lakeland Ledger)

Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.

Former Florida center Maurkice Pouncey can now put NFL All-Star on his football resume on top of his other stellar accomplishments.

The Pittsburgh Steelers center was one of four rookies named to the Pro Bowl last Tuesday after being selected in a leaguewide vote by NFL players, coaches and fans.

The other three rookies chosen are defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh of Detroit, a starter for the NFC, and cornerback Devin McCourty of New England and kick returner Marc Mariani of Tennessee on the AFC squad.

Pouncey, a former Lakeland Dreadnaught and Florida Gator star, is Pittsburgh's first rookie Pro Bowl offensive lineman since offensive tackle Frank Varrichione was elected to the game in 1956, and he's the first Steelers rookie Pro Bowler since linebacker Kendrell Bell (2002), according to the team.

Pouncey, selected with the 18th overall pick in last year's draft, has started every game for Pittsburgh this season after he became Polk County's first first-rounder since former Kathleen receiver Freddie Mitchell was selected 25th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2001.

"Ever since I was 6 years old, that's the only thing I ever wanted to do," Pouncey told The Ledger before the draft in April.

Pouncey already was in the national spotlight before going pro.

Aside from becoming an All-American, he won the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's top center, after his final season at Florida as a junior.

He also has two national championships and three state high school titles in his bag of feats.

Pouncey won't be the lone Pro Bowler from Polk County playing in the Jan. 30 game in Honolulu. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a Kathleen High School graduate, will start for the AFC squad. Lewis has been invited to 12 Pro Bowls in his 15-year career.

"Wow, No. 12 feels like No. 1," Lewis said in a statement released by the Ravens. "Every year is a different year, and you prepare each offseason for one year at a time. I tell my teammates that I am going to train to be a Pro Bowl player that season, and my focus paid off again this season. This never gets old."

Lewis has led the Ravens with a team-high 134 tackles, while also posting two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles this season.

"This is the greatest honor ever because this is from the fans, the coaches and your peers," Lewis added in the statement. "You can never take anything for granted, and I never take this for granted."

Tom Zebold is a staff writer at The Lakeland Ledger. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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