Pouncey: One Weekend Changed Our Whole Life

For Michael Pouncey and his family, the thought of wearing Orange and Blue in college was something that would have made them ill during his early high school days. Pouncey and his brother grew up fans of Florida State and actually committed to the program early in high school. On one fateful weekend in June of 2006, the Pounceys made a choice that surprised and changed their lives completely.

For the last four years, there has been at least one and usually two Pounceys in the starting lineup for the Florida Gators. Michael Pouncey and his brother Maurkice were a force in two 13-1 seasons and a national championship, anchoring an offensive line that has been among the nation's best for most of that time frame.

The Pounceys coming to Florida may be the single biggest coup in Urban Meyer's stint of Florida recruiting. There were no bigger diehard Seminole fans in the recruiting process than Michael and Maurkice. Getting one meant getting the other and when it happened, the Gators netted 87 starts to a program that has been at the mountain top of college football.

The Florida coaching staff was thrilled when the Pounceys said they wanted to become Gators. However, the family was shocked and beside themselves when they found out that Urban Meyer, Steve Addazio, and the Florida coaching staff had won over the twins from Lakeland.

"My mom was like ‘what are ya'll doing?", Michael Pouncey told the media this week. "She was crying. My sisters are still Seminole fans so they were mad at us for the longest time, but we felt like we made the best decision for us and our family."

The turnaround happened at summer camp. The Pounceys came to camp with four of their teammates from Lakeland's national championship program. Junior running back Chris Rainey was already committed to Florida, senior safety Ahmad Black was on the trip, receiver Paul Wilson was also on hand, as was junior fullback Steven Wilks.

Rainey was the lead salesman on the trip as the only committed Gator. He must have said a few things right to go along with the sales job the coaching staff did, because it only took the one weekend on Florida's campus to make an impact that a whole lifetime of FSU fandom could not cover up.

"We got up here to Gainesville and one weekend changed our whole life," Pouncey said. Pouncey's mom, Lisa Webster, was none too thrilled.

"She was like, ‘heck no'…she didn't want us to come to Gainesville," Pouncey said with a smile. "Our whole family grew up Florida State fans. We were up there (in Tallahassee) every weekend and they got to like the town and the coaches. I guess that was their first love and the first school to really offer us and a dream come true to the whole family."

This was not a decision that didn't come with some immediate difficult consequences. The Pounceys became friends with current Seminole defensive line coach Odell Haggins, who recruited the twins throughout the process. They would have to call and let him know of their change in plans.

"It was tough on him, Pouncey said of Haggins. " I remember when we were freshmen in high school, we saw him and he told us he was going to come back and get us. We thought it was all fun and games, but we ended up being the players we are and he came back and (recruited us). It was tough for us to make that call to him because we had a great relationship. It was emotional for him and us."

Key in the recruitment of the twins was the head coach situation at Florida State. Bobby Bowden was the head coach and with his entire legacy at the school, the Pounceys were turned off a little by the fact the head coach was never around when they were being recruited.

"That was one of the big keys why I didn't go there," Pouncey said. "I was committed there for two years and I talked to Coach Bowden maybe once or twice and real short. I guess they had someone better than me and my brother come in (those weekends). I don't know how to explain it, but I guess their offensive line is pretty good. "The times I did meet him, he was a great guy and you could tell he knew a lot about football. Obviously, he won a lot of games. As he got older I don't think he got too much into the recruiting."

Now his team takes on the team that he grew up cheering for. This game means so much for all involved, but the game itself, at least for Pouncey, had little to do with his decision to eventually come to Florida.

"For me it wasn't," Pouncey said about the game not being a big deal. "I wanted to go to Florida State. It was a dream for me. I didn't really base it on one game. I just based it on if that would be the best decision for me for four years." The game has annually been played on Thanksgiving weekend and like every other Thanksgiving since his arrival, Pouncey will be spending his time with his offensive line coach and current offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. This year, his family will be spending time with his brother Maurkice, who left school a year early and was a first round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Every year I enjoy Thanksgiving and Coach Addazio and his family," he said. "We have a great time, so I will be spending time with them. After the holiday time on Thursday it will be back to business. The task at hand is one of major importance, especially in this year where the season has gone south. Pouncey believes this game is really important.

"Yes it is, because we are so used to winning around here," he said. "The season we have had is disappointing, but I think going out and beating all of our rival teams will make our fans proud and especially the pride we are playing for right now.

"Obviously you want to beat all the teams in the in-state rivalry games. They have great traditions and they win a lot of game and we do too. Winning this game will be big for us." The staff makes sure the team has a little extra fire in them this week, like they do all the rivalry games. Urban Meyer coached Florida teams are 16-1 against the top three rivals (FSU, Tennessee, and Georgia) on the schedule. Sometimes Meyer doesn't have to point out the importance of the game, this young team is a little different.

"Anytime there is a rivalry game they hang up a lot of stuff for motivation," Pouncey said. "Like Coach Meyer says the last couple of years we didn't have to do it. Last year it was senior day so the focus was there. This year we really have to focus on what's at stake. We are looking at this game like our bowl game. If we win this game we will be in a better bowl game. We want to win this game for our fans and for ourselves.

"The coaches don't like Florida State and Florida State doesn't like us. It will be a good game on Saturday."

Without playing this version of the FSU squad yet, and despite the defense being second in the country in sacks, Pouncey believes they have had better lines since he has been at Florida. "I can't really say that this is their best one because I remember my freshman year they had Andre Fluellen," he said. "I think that was their best one."

He has a lot of respect for FSU guard Rodney Hudson who is up for all the national awards this season.

"He is undersized, but plays tough," Pouncey said. "I think he deserves all the recognition that he gets. He plays hard and I wish him all the luck in the future."

However, Pouncey doesn't believe Hudson is better than himself.

"No, I don't think anyone is," he said with a grin.

Of all the on-the-field memories of the three games he has already played, the thing that he remembers the most was the week leading up to the game in the 2008 championship season. His father Rob Webster was in a serious accident involving a train and would eventually lose his leg. It was a traumatic time for the Pounceys and that week was something he will never forget and will always associate it with this game.

"Two years ago, we went down there and our dad had the accident in the beginning of that week," he said. "I will never forget this week it is always something that will stick with me. I love playing this game, because it is a team that I loved watching their traditions, so it is a big rivalry, but I think my dad's accident is the reason I really remember this week."

Dad is now doing fine.

"He's doing (well)," Pouncey said. "I just got off the phone. They are all in Pittsburgh having a good time. I wished them a good Thanksgiving since I'm not going to be there."

I can remember during the recruitment, I paid a visit to the Pouncey household to do a feature story and video collage. Rob Webster was all about making sure his "boys" respected him, so even though they were 60-70 pounds heavier, he would line up and try and play trench football against them. He had a good time then, but with the injury and the transformation of high school juniors becoming grown men with college physical training, he wouldn't bark up that tree any more.

"He let that football stuff go when he lost his leg," Pouncey said before he added…"He knows better than to line up in front of us now." Florida State may well be thinking the same thing after the weekend.
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