LAKE BUENA VISTA — Mike and Maurkice Pouncey were among the first players off the AFC Pro Bowl practice field Thursday.
They were trying to hustle to the locker room to shower, change and get on the road.
They had people waiting. More than 50 of them, actually.
“This is our family vacation,” Los Angeles Chargers center Mike Pouncey said.
The tattooed twins grew up about 30 miles west of Disney World, won a national championship two hours up the road at Florida and have made a combined 11 Pro Bowls in 15 seasons. But they’ve haven’t practiced or played on the same field so close to home since their high school days in Lakeland, Florida.
So they decided to go all out for friends and relatives at the Pro Bowl. They rented a spacious, nine-bedroom house for the week, secured two luxury suites for the NFL’s annual all-star game Sunday and doled out dozens of more tickets.
“It means so much,” Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. “It’s bigger than our family. It’s a community in Florida here that’s supported us for so long. We couldn’t be happier to have them out here and soaking it all in.”
While the Pounceys appear to have the largest entourage on hand, they are hardly alone in treating the Pro Bowl as a family affair. Warm weather, VIP access to theme parks and a lax practice environment create an ideal vacation spot for those closest to the players.
Retiring Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who said he has no second thoughts about giving up the game after 13 seasons, brought his mom, his mother-in-law, his wife, their five kids, plus a niece and a nephew to town.
“The opportunity to come out and kind of a last hooray so to speak with the game and being able to share the week with my family and go to Disney, do the whole thing, bring them to practice. It’s kind of a cherry on top. It’s a great way to go out.”
Williams rented “the whole corner of the 15th floor at the hotel” for his group. They arrived a day early to make the first of two trips to Disney World. They also plan to visit Universal Studios.
“It’s a big week,” Williams said. “Eighty degrees in January is hard to beat.”
Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern made his first Pro Bowl last year and watched veteran quarterback Drew Brees bring his three young boys to every event, including practice.
“I saw Drew’s kids in our locker room asking Antonio Brown for jerseys and asking players for autographs, and the guys were open to it,” Kern said. “I figured if I ever get back, I’m going to bring my son around to everything, bus rides, all we do as a team.”
Kern made it back, brought his wife and three kids and now has his 9-year-old son Bryce in tow for the week. Bryce brought about 50 player cards to get signed, but he spent Thursday’s practice playing football with Williams’ three sons and a few others, and then he worked as a team reporter for the Titans.
The Pounceys have even more on their agenda.
They have the usual Disney trips on tap along with nightly dance parties starring all the youngsters in the rental home.
“We know after this is all over, the vacation is done and it’s back to work,” Maurkice Pouncey said.
The brothers flipped a coin to decide who would take the first snap in practice Wednesday and they already have talked to coaches about getting to play side by side in the game. They got to do that during the 2015 Pro Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. It was the first time they shared a field since 2009.
But this would be different because so many friends and family members will be on hand.
“It’s awesome,” Mike Pouncey said. “This brings back so many great memories. Our Florida days were some of the best times of our lives. We had one of the greatest college football teams ever. To be back out here playing again on the same football field is moments we won’t forget.”
They are considering a little trickery, too.
They talked about possibly swapping helmets during the game. The identical twins both wear No. 53 and expect to have just their last name on the backs of their jerseys. So would anyone — even all those closest to them — even notice a quick switch-a-roo?
“Maybe I’ll be a Charger for a play,” Maurkice Pouncey said. “You never know.”