Football is family.
If you're a fan of the NFL, chances are you've heard that phrase.
But for Mike Pouncey, the phrase couldn't ring any truer.
"Football is our family's life," he said.
Pouncey and his twin brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice, will face off this Sunday for the fourth time in their careers. Drafted a year apart, the two are in a unique situation as a pair of brothers simultaneously living out their NFL dreams.
"I'm just excited, I love playing against my brother," Mike said. "I love playing against the Steelers. It's an awesome organization. It's going to be a great football atmosphere, and I know his teammates are all looking forward to going up against me."
The game that Mike and his brother sacrifice so much for is the lifeblood of their family. But it's the sacrifices those closest to them made that helped get them to where they are today.
"Our sisters sacrificed for us to be able to play football," he explained. "Our parents have sacrificed to get us to football practice and being able to keep us in it for so long."
The game means a lot to Pouncey and he's grateful that it's helped put his family in a better situation than they had growing up.
"It's changed our family's life for the better. It took us out of poverty, and we're very appreciative for it…. We grew up very, very poor. Our mom had us when she was 17 years old. A lot of the time growing up, the (family's) main focus was on my brother and me. We played sports, and we were really good at it."
The Pro Bowl center said his family knew he and his brother had a gift for football in high school. The duo won three-straight state championships at Lakeland High School thanks to what Pouncey proclaimed a combination of "luck and hard work" and went on to storied careers at the University of Florida, and now, the NFL.
But growing up, the brothers used the game as a means of escape from their humble beginnings; to make life better for those who gave up so much for them.
"We figured this was our only way out. Our whole family knew that. Growing up, the focus was on my brother and me…. For instance, our sisters had to be cheerleaders. They didn't want to be cheerleaders! But they were cheerleaders because we were on the football team. So, we have a close-knit family. We love our sisters to death. They're very supportive of us, and we couldn't be more thankful to have a better family than them…. Without football, I don't know where our family would be."
As for this weekend, the Pouncey family will all be in Pittsburgh cheering on their two sons, just like they were back in Lakeland more than a decade ago. But while they aren't picking sides, Pouncey said his family is just glad to see the work their sons put in come full circle and hope both come out of the game healthy and ready for Week 14.
"Our family, they love (games like this). The biggest thing for them is that they want to see both of us come out of the game healthy. They don't care who wins. They just want to see both of their sons play really well and walk out of the game healthy."