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Steelers' top pick honors folks with body art

| Saturday, April 24, 2010

The body art on Maurkice Pouncey's lower left arm isn't something a teenage kid usually walks into a tattoo shop and requests.

Even now, Pouncey isn't quite sure why or when he decided to get a portrait of his stepfather, Robert Webster, on one arm and his mother, Lisa Webster, on the other.

"Me and my (twin) brother (Michael) got tattoo-crazy, and it didn't stop," the Steelers' top pick in Thursday's NFL Draft said as he was formally introduced by the organization.

Michael Pouncey went more conventional with his tattoos, mostly flames and objects of that sort. But not Maurkice Pouncey.

The older Pouncey (by only minutes) wanted to honor his parents.

"We are just some inspiration in his life," Robert Webster said yesterday from his home in Lakeland, Fla. "We tried to treat people right."

Webster isn't Pouncey's biological father, but you can't tell the mammoth offensive lineman that. Webster entered Pouncey's life when he was 1 and has been his father ever since.

So you can imagine what Pouncey was thinking that late November day in 2008 when he got a frantic call from his mother.

Dad was hurt ... bad.

"I thought she was playing," Pouncey said. "We always joke around. When we knew she was serious, the first thing we did was get in our car and drive to Lakeland."

Webster had a serious accident while working at Lakeland Animal Nutrition. He was unloading a rail car full of feed when tragedy struck.

He tried to set the front rail car's brake, but it failed to hold. He jumped off that car and climbed onto a second one trying to set its brake but to no success.

With the two cars headed toward a collision with other rail cars, Webster tried to jump out of the way. When his foot got caught on the track, the rail car rolled over his right thigh.

It severed his leg on the spot.

Webster lost enough blood before the emergency medical team arrived that his life was in jeopardy as he was flown to a Tampa hospital. Webster underwent immediate surgery and remained unconscious for two days. His leg could not be reattached.

"It was a bad feeling knowing I wasn't going to have a leg," Webster said.

With his family and Florida coach Urban Meyer at his bed side, all Webster was worried about when he awoke was how the Gators were going to play against Florida State later in the week.

"They are our in-state rivals," Webster said. "A lot of those boys grew up playing each other on both sides. I thought I would throw their concentration off."

It proved to be just the opposite. Gators players wore wristbands honoring Webster that Saturday and crushed FSU, 45-15.

"He could have wanted us to be there, but in his heart, he knew we needed to go play," Pouncey said. "He forced us to go back to school. I have so much respect for him. I love that guy to death."

Although his father insists that he is no inspiration to his son, Pouncey's high school coach Bill Castle begs to differ.

Pouncey was a college sophomore and a starting guard at the time of his father's accident. Within a year, he turned himself into the best center in the country and a top 20 pick in the NFL Draft.

"His parents have done a great job raising him," said Lakeland High's Castle, who won two national titles with Pouncey at guard. "They have a real strong bond. He took his dad's injury hard. That probably motivated him even more to be a success and help his dad out."

Although Webster wasn't well enough to make it to the FSU game or even the SEC title game a few weeks later against No. 1 Alabama, he was able to make it to Miami to see his son play Oklahoma for a national championship.

Florida beat Oklahoma, 24-14.

"It was so exciting," Pouncey said. "Coach Meyer brought him (into the locker room), and everybody cheered for him. It brought tears to me after everything he went through and how he handled it."

Webster has since been fitted with a prosthetic leg that allows him to get around. He still goes to therapy a few times a week.

"It has been a long process," Webster said. "I am getting better at it all the time. I got some mobility with it now."

Webster made one thing clear: He's not going to miss any of his kids' games this year, whether it's watching Michael at Florida or Maurkice in Pittsburgh.

"We are coming to Pittsburgh," Webster said. "We will be there with Terrible Towels."

Sounding off

The Steelers officially introduced first-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey on Friday at their South Side headquarters. Here are some excerpts from his news conference:

"It was shocking. I'm a lineman. I'm just so happy I'm here. I see the fans on TV, and it's just amazing." — Pouncey on fans recognizing him at the airport after flying into Pittsburgh on Friday.

"I never have a down day. I always come in smiling no matter what happened. I guess I'm the kind of guy everybody likes to be around. I guess it kind of started with my dad. He's always been hard on us about being good people to everybody else. I guess I just took it and ran with it." — Pouncey on his personality.

"I wanted to cry but my brother (Mike) told me: 'Keep it real, man. Don't cry on TV.' So I didn't cry, but it was amazing. I wish everyone could experience that feeling when somebody calls and tells you you're their first overall pick. It hasn't hit yet. I can't wait until it does." — Pouncey on getting the call from coach Mike Tomlin that the Steelers were taking him with their first-round pick.

"Heck yeah. I've got a lot to live up to. I've been reading about the great guys that played in a Pittsburgh uniform." — Pouncey on if he is aware of the Steelers' tradition.

"That ain't happening." — Pouncey on his chances of getting the No. 56 he wore at Florida from Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

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