NOTE: Steelers fans can still help Maurkice Pouncey win the Walter Payton Man of the Year challenge via Twitter. To do so, go to @steelers on Twitter and RT any and all tweets that mention Pouncey's nomination or Tweet yourself using the hashtag #WPMOYChallenge + Pouncey.
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 Bureau of Police, something talked about in a meeting with police and several players a few years ago. He wanted to do something to build trust and develop a relationship that will hopefully last, and will improve relations long term.
That drive, that desire to always work for something better, is one of the many reasons Pouncey was selected as the Steelers Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, presented by Nationwide.
"This is big for me and my brother (Mike)," said Pouncey, immediately giving credit to his twin brother Mike Pouncey as well. "We like to give back to the community, especially where we are from and the cities where we play. I have gotten a lot of support in both areas. It would be crazy just to pick the place where I grew up, and not here in Pittsburgh too. I just love the people here. Working with the police, knowing how good of people they are. It's too hard not to give back. I wouldn't feel right. I couldn't sleep.
"It's a good thing. We are very blessed to have the money and success we have, so it's only right to do it. We did the stuff growing up, helping out with different events, even before we made it to the NFL. We were always giving back. We are just taking it to the next level. It's our responsibility to do this. All the blessings you have, I might look at it differently than other people, but you should do this."
Pouncey and his brother Mike Pouncey started the Team Pouncey Foundation, with a mission to promote future success for disadvantage youth by assisting programs which provide opportunities for at risk youth. They have donated more than $10 million to those organizations through the years and they also host the Pouncey Twins Youth Football & Cheerleading Camp in their hometown of Lakeland, Florida, which includes football and cheerleading instructions and is free to all kids.
For the past three 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. "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."
Maurkice Pouncey gives back to the city of Pittsburgh
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, providing Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of Pittsburgh families every year. He also recently donated horses to the police department for their mounted unit.
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.
"I think the awesome thing about him is the quiet manner in which he goes about it," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "It's almost like he is uncomfortable getting recognition for the things he does. That is why I appreciate it. He has always been an active member of the community. He has always been engaged, particularly with young people. But very rarely does he draw attention, nor does he want to."
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."
He is constantly participating in events teammates host and working with charities in the Pittsburgh area to make a difference.
And he does it all with a smile and a quiet joy.
"I hate the attention. I am humbled by things," said Pouncey. "Coming where we come from, you are always grateful. It's not about me. I got out and play football. I know there are people who need help in this world. I know I can't help everybody, but the people I can help, hopefully I make a difference in their lives."
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The last Steelers player to win the honor was Jerome Bettis is 2001. Joe Greene won it in 1979, Franco Harris in 1976 and Lynn Swann in 1981.