Mike Pouncey is starting for Miami
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 2:23 p.m.
On the surface, if you didn't know the situation, it might look like Mike Pouncey is facing the challenge of following his brother Maurkice into the NFL and trying to live up to his brother's achievements.
The truth is, Mike and Maurkice have been on the same path toward being NFL players their whole lives, and Maurkice just got there a year earlier.
At least, that's kind of how Mike sees it.
"We both knew we were going to be NFL players, first-round draft picks, so it feels great that we can both come out here and help our teams and help support our family financially," Mike said last Saturday night after the Miami Dolphins' 17-13 preseason loss to Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium.
Both Pounceys were first-round draft picks by NFL teams.
Both will be starting centers for their respective teams this year — Maurkice with Pittsburgh and Mike with the Dolphins.
Both grew up playing together, side-by-side, for all of the teams they played on, including Lakeland High School and the University of Florida.
The one difference is, Maurkice left Florida a year early to enter the NFL while Mike stayed at UF and switched from guard to center, where Maurkice had played for three years.
In his rookie season, Maurkice started all 16 games, helped lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl and was selected for the Pro Bowl.
Being Maurkice's twin, that's the standard Mike now faces.
Shortly after reporting to training camp, reporters asked Mike about that and he said, "It's put a lot of pressure (on me). Obviously he set the standard. I'm here to raise the bar, so we'll see how that goes."
The brothers have always been close, and during the summer NFL lockout that prevented Mike from working out and learning the Dolphins' system, he and Maurkice worked out together.
"We just worked out the whole offseason as far as technique (of playing center)," Mike said." As far as the playbook, I've learned that on my own.
"He (Maurkice) is a great motivation for me to come out and play great," Mike said. "I look up to him because he's having a great career so far. I want to keep up and hopefully turn out like he did."
The fact that he missed a summer of workouts has set him back in learning the playbook, so he's on a crash course during the preseason to catch up.
"The mental aspect has been the toughest part so far, especially because I missed so much because of the lockout this year," Mike said. "You come in the first day of (training) camp and they throw a big book at you that you've got to learn, and you've got 10 other guys counting on you to do your job."
As the center, it's Mike's responsibility to make the protection calls at the line of scrimmage.
In that regard, he has some help.
For one thing, quarterback Chad Henne has the option to override Mike's call if he doesn't think it's the right decision.
"We have a little bit of a rule where Chad can override anybody," Miami coach Tony Sporano said. "He really has the last say. Mike will kind of set things up but if Chad decides he wants to change, he can do that at the line of scrimmage."
Sporano said he has seen progress daily from Pouncey.
Also, last year's starter, Joe Berger, has been a big help, Mike said.
"They've thrown me in there, and he (Berger) could easily have turned his back on me, but he's been one of the guys who's been there for me, teaching me everything. He's a great guy," Mike said.
Mike said he does feel the pressure a little bit of being a first-round draft pick and being thrown into the starting lineup right away.
"There's definitely more pressure, especially when you're the center," he said. "You're the guy making all the calls up front so the quarterback doesn't get killed."
It's the same thing Maurkice faced last year with Pittsburgh, and his brother flourished.
Now it's Mike's turn.
"It feels great to play in the NFL," he said. "It's a job, it's a career and it feels great to be able to finally live up to one of your dreams."
Mike Cobb is a sports writer at The Lakeland Ledger in Lakeland.
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