Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and his twin brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, are two of the best players at their position in the NFL. When it comes to on-the-field play, there is no question about either Pouncey brother; that changes when we talk off-the-field reputation. The Pouncey brothers have never been in the kind of trouble that would lead to legal problems or keep them from getting on the field, but they have made a series of questionable decisions over the past few years that have earned them a poor reputation among fans and the media.
The two were photographed wearing "Free Hernandez" hats during their birthday party in 2013 to support their University of Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez shortly after his arrest for murder. The former New England Patriots tight end has since been convicted of the murder of Odin Loyd; he has also been charged in the murder of two others, along with weapons charges and attempted murder charges, from a double homicide drive-by shooting in 2012.
Last year, again at their birthday party, they were accused of assault by Riquan James, also known as Ricky Vaquez on social media. The accusation alleged that the Pounceys were using derogatory language about James' sexual orientation. They then, according to James' statements, began punching him. Two women also levied allegations at the Pounceys, one who said Maurkice had punched her in the face when she tried to break up the fight and one who said she was knocked into a table covered in glasses and received a two-inch laceration in her leg. Police investigated the incident, but no charges were officially filed against the Pounceys.
The 2013 NFL season ended with the Dolphins' embroiled in a bullying-scandal, with former tackle Jonathan Martin having left the team. After months of investigation into the situation, attorney Ted Wells issued a report that, while former guard Richie Incognito was identified as the main antagonist to Martin, identify Mike by name as one of the members of the team who bullied Martin.
The brothers, who hosted their annual football and cheer camp this weekend at Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Florida, spoke with The Ledger and discussed their reputation.
"We made some mistakes in the past and we learned from them," Maurkice told the paper. "I'm glad they happened because you always got to learn in life. We were young ... then, but we're grown up and trying to be the positive role models — something for these kids back in Lakeland to look up to — and it means a lot to us.
"Anytime we did get in trouble in the past, it hit us in the heart. We learned the hard way, but now that we're able to give back every single year, it's a blessing."
"The world has changed so much that the public eye is everything," Mike added. "It's perception over reality. We know that you've got to do the things right on and off the football field, and we learned over the course of our careers to do that now. We're just glad to be positive role models in our community."
The Pounceys understand they have made mistakes, and are trying to change the perceptions people have of them. The "Pouncey Weekend" camp is one effort, an event that was started after Mike joined the Dolphins in 2011 as a first-round draft pick. Maurkice was drafted by the Steelers a year earlier, also in the first round.
"It's a process," Maurkice explained. "There are a lot of people to change minds, but it's all a building process. We try to do the right thing. We're young still and we're still growing every single day."