When Maurkice Pouncey says something, he says it with authority. He says it with passion. He says it with meaning.
So when he said he wanted to work to make the Pittsburgh community a better one, a closer one, he didn't just sit back and wait for something to happen. He did something himself.
Pouncey's mission was to bring together the community and the Pittsburgh Police Department, something talked about in a meeting with police and several players last season. He wanted to do something to build trust and develop a relationship that will hopefully last, and will improve relations long term.
For the past two seasons Pouncey has donated tickets to Steelers home games to the Pittsburgh Police for them to take youth in city neighborhoods to games, as well as enjoy a pregame tailgate party inside of Stage AE. The tickets are distributed to different police zones each week, allowing a wide range of kids the opportunity to not only see a game, but spend quality time interacting with the police and getting to know the men and women who are there to protect them.
"I think sometimes the message gets blurred some with some of the incidents," said Pouncey, who was once again is Pro Bowl selection. "The things we do in the community, and how Pittsburgh is, how involved they are in bringing up the youth and making sure everyone knows they do a lot of great things. To bring up the kids that way is awesome.
"This gives the kids a chance to see the police beyond the uniform. They are human. They are great people. They have kids and family members too. Just because they wear a badge you shouldn't look at them a certain way. They are a lot of great people that help with a lot of great causes."
Pouncey's actions have made a difference, something that is clearly noticeable to the men and women in the police department.
"When we first got together last season to see what we could do to build better bridges in the community between the police and especially the youth, he was one of the key ones who said I want to do it," said Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert. "He has helped out immensely, giving us tickets to the games where we were able to pick kids in the community who wouldn't have an opportunity to go to a game. And they go with our officers. Those four or five hours that they are together helps build that relationship. It wouldn't be possible without Maurkice. He is so humble about it, but he does such an amazing job. He is truly making a difference in the community. We love the partnership we have with him and partnership we have with the Steelers organization.
"I can't say enough about Maurkice and what he has done. He has truly stepped up. He doesn't want credit. He just wants to do it. I send him pics after every game for him to see the kids enjoying things. He is a genuinely nice guy. He is doing it for the right reason. I think people will see that passion from him and follow. That is what you are seeing now. It becomes contagious. We will all come and go, but we have to have a foundation built that this is something bigger than us and will last a lifetime."
The police officers take the kids to the games in their police vans, spend time getting to know them during the pregame fun at Stage AE, and then are able to share with them an experience of a lifetime at the game.
"He is truly making a difference," said Schubert. "We can have officers and the kids from the community spend about five hours together not on the street, not at the station and have fun together. The kids get to know the officers, the officers get to know the kids, and the adults in the community who are chaperones.
"The main thing is to get the youth, or anyone in the community, to look beyond the uniform, and the badge and patch, and see the individual. The same thing on our side. We don't want to see everybody as a victim, or a witness, or someone who is going to be arrested. We want to see the person. That has paid off huge dividends. You see people in the community going to the game and have developed a relationship with them and that's priceless."
Pouncey hasn't stopped there. He was one of the players to donate to the Pittsburgh Police Fund through the Steelers Social Justice Grant program. He does his annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank alongside police officers.
There are other things he does quietly, things we sometimes never know about because attention is something he doesn't seek. Just getting him to talk about sending the kids to games took time, prying it out of him. Because he doesn't do it for a pat on the back, or for attention. He does it because he cares.
"It amazes me how humble he is," said Chief Schubert. "He doesn't want notoriety for it. He just wants to make a difference. Giving back to the community is important to him. It speaks volumes of his character and who he is. I know he is not originally from Pittsburgh, but he sure is making Pittsburgh proud."