DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins had just won their opener at Cleveland on Sunday. Center Mike Pouncey should have been elated.
Instead he was in tears.
He learned going off the field his twin, Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey, had suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee earlier in the day and would be lost for the season. Mike telephoned his brother and it got emotional.
“I couldn’t stop crying. It was very deflating,” Mike said. “I hate to say it, but I wish it had been me instead of him. I love my brother to death. I look up to him. He made me the player I am today. It hit me hard. I wish I was in his place instead.”
Mike had been talking since the start of training camp about how much he was looking forward to Dec. 8, when the Dolphins play at Pittsburgh. That was to be the first meeting ever between the twins.
It’s been a tough week for the family, with Maurkice getting hurt early in a 16-9 home loss to Tennessee and then having surgery performed Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., by noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews. But family members vow they will get through it.
Helping matters is what was learned from what the twins’ father went through five years ago. On Nov. 24, 2008, Robert Webster was working at a feed plant in the family’s hometown of Lakeland, Fla., and unloading off a train car.
The brakes locked up and the car banged into another one. Webster fell between the cars and his right leg was severed and soon had to be amputated below the thigh.
“We’ve had a devastating injury in my family and my dad stayed in good spirits and he got through it,” Mike said. “It’s a whole family thing. The family got through it. I know if my dad can lose his leg and have good spirits, I know my brother can have his ACL torn and still have good spirits too.”
Webster was with his son in Pensacola for the surgery. He said Maurkice can be helped in his recovery by seeing what he went through.
“Oh, yeah, he definitely can,” Webster said. “He’s seen me at my worse and he can use that for inspiration to get through what he needs to sustain him.”
When Webster was injured, the Pouncey twins were both starring for the University of Florida, which eventually won the 2008 national championship. It was five days before the Gators would face Florida State. After they had visited him in the hospital, Webster urged his sons to go play hard.
“There were some down times,” Webster said of losing his leg. “Like when (paramedics at the accident site) told me it didn’t make sense to air lift me to Tampa because they couldn’t save the leg. That hit me pretty hard.
“I had my down time but I had to get back strong. I just realized that I had a lot to live for. My kids had a golden opportunity to play football. That gave me more incentive just to be with them. I had to be there for them.”
Maurkice ended up being the No. 18 pick in the 2010 draft by the Steelers and has played in the past three Pro Bowls. Mike went No. 15 to the Dolphins in 2011 and is a strong candidate to make his first Pro Bowl.
Webster figures this would be the ideal season. If Mike can make it, that would result in a Pouncey in Hawaii for a fourth straight year.
“I think he’s going to make the Pro Bowl,” said Webster, 43, who has been retired since his injury.
For now, Mike is mostly thinking about the Dolphins having a good season and his brother’s recovery. Mike has been on the phone with him regularly this week.
“I call him every day and check on him,” Mike said. “Anything I need to do, I’m there for him. His spirits are better than mine. There will be adversity but this won’t be the first time we fought through it.”
Mike’s mother, Lisa Webster, said her son is being sincere when he says he wishes he would have gotten hurt rather than Maurkice.
“I believe that,” she said. “They’re attached at the hip. They’re absolute best friends. They’re as close as can be.”
The entire family is close. Lisa Webster related what Tierra Webster, a sister, texted Maurkice shortly after he was hurt.
“This is a minor setback for a major comeback,” it read.