Mike and Maurkice Pouncey don’t like being apart. Bad things happen when they are.
The first time the brothers were separated, they were just a few days old.
Maurkice was ill, and his parents rushed him to the hospital. The infant spent a week there. It wasn’t until then that mom Lisa could actually tell the identical twins apart.
“That’s how they figured out, OK, this is Mike, that’s Maurkice,” Pouncey said. “Who knows if I was the one who got sick and went into the hospital and he was the one who stayed home? I don’t remember.”
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He continued: “My brother is my best friend. I love him to death. I hope he plays really good [Sunday], but I hope his team doesn’t.”
Yes, a showdown 27 years in the making finally arrives Sunday.
The Pounceys — who did everything together, including sitting for their first (of many) tattoos at age 13 — will meet on a football field for the first time.
Maurkice’s Steelers visit Mike’s Dolphins on Sunday.
“We’re the same,” Maurkice Pouncey told Pittsburgh reporters last week. “Honestly man. I look up to him. That’s my bigger brother. I know he always tries to say he looks up to me and I’m the better one but I think we just look at each other honestly and I think Mike’s better.”
There’s no doubt that Maurkice’s team is better. The Steelers are 4-1; the Dolphins are 1-4.
Pittsburgh is thinking about the playoffs. Miami is just trying to figure out who will be on the team in three months.
That’s been pretty much the case since the Steelers selected Maurkice with the 18th pick of the 2010 draft, a year before the Dolphins took Mike at 15.
Maurkice has played in the postseason four times in his first six seasons. Mike has never been part of a winning team.
Their teams met in 2013, but Maurkice was on injured reserve and could not play. And their teams are not guaranteed to meet again until 2019. Who knows where either will be at that point. So you bet this is an event for the Pouncey family.
Mike, who is a minute older than his brother, has bought 79 tickets for friends and kin. Maurkice paid last time, when the game was in Pittsburgh.
It’ll be a surreal experience for all involved. They started playing football at age 6, and were always on the same team.
They won state titles together at Lakeland High. They were cornerstones of the University of Florida’s 2008 national championship team — Maurkice as the Gators’ center, Mike as the right guard.
They were teammates again in 2009, then Maurkice bolted for the NFL after his junior year to support his family. Mike decided to stick around for his senior season.
That was the first time in their lives that they lived apart, which Mike called “the hardest thing we went through together. … That was toughest transition, being apart from each other.”
To hear Maurkice tell it, the Steelers considered orchestrating a family reunion after just one year apart. The Steelers owned the 31st pick after losing to the Packers in the Super Bowl.
Mike was long off the board by the time the Steelers made that pick, much to his twin’s frustration. Maurkice says he lobbied Pittsburgh to find a way to draft his brother.
“Heck yeah, man, I tried so hard,” Maurkice said. “They actually almost did it but the Dolphins picked him up.”
Miami’s decision allowed both to play their natural position: center. Maurkice Pouncey has been to four Pro Bowls. Mike has been picked for three.
“They’re the best there is in the game — both of them,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “It’s arguably, ‘Who is it? Who is the best guy?’ Those two guys, they’re special. Obviously, it’s not [just] as players; it’s as leaders and the way they go about their daily business, and the way that they battle back through adversity.”
Here’s one thing that Mike does better than Maurkice: talk trash. And he expects to do plenty of it Sunday.
Said Maurkice: “We’re twins, man. It’s competition so much with the Pro Bowls, with everything we do. Even the draft thing. He still won’t let it go that he got drafted higher than me.”
Added big brother: “I hope he goes out there and I hope he plays really well. Obviously, I hope their team doesn’t play well, but I hope he plays really good and injury free, obviously.”