Staying put

Lately, Lisa Webster finds herself shaking her head in amazement on an almost daily basis. Oh, the stories she hears from folks — most of whom she’s never met — who claim to have inside information about her rather large and talented twins, Mike and Maurkice Pouncey. Just once she wishes they would ask her before making statements that Mike and Maurkice are going to bypass their senior seasons at the University of Florida to enter the National Football League Draft.

“Where do people get this stuff?” asked Webster, speaking by telephone from Lakeland Wednesday evening. “People keep saying the boys are going to the NFL. Well, they aren’t getting it from me and I think I’d know.”

There is no question that Mike and Maurkice Pouncey are going to play in the NFL one day. They are that rare combination of size (they’re both 6-5 and 319), mobility and the intelligence (both of them can play all five positions on the offensive line) that will ensure long careers in the pros. The twins made All-SEC on both the coaches and Associated Press teams. Maurkice started at right guard as a true freshman in 2007 while Mike became a starter at nose tackle midway through the season when injuries depleted the roster. Maurkice took over at center and Mike at right guard in 2008 when the Gators won the national championship. Maurkice has started every game at center this season while Mike started the first eight games at left guard before shifting back to right guard five games ago.

That’s a resume that has NFL written all over it, but Lisa Webster says the NFL will be there next year, too.

“I can tell you they’re in no rush to leave the University of Florida,” she said. “They love it there. They love Coach Meyer and Coach (Steve) Addazio. I love what everybody up there has done for my boys. They’re happy and they love being Gators. They don’t have to go to the NFL this year.”

Now, that doesn’t mean they won’t test the NFL waters. Webster said she expects her sons to submit their paperwork for the draft to get an idea of where they stand and what they need to work on for next season.

She fully expects them to be back next season unless the NFL paperwork comes back with the magic words first or second round.

“They’re staying put unless they hear first or second round,” Webster said. “That would change everything.”

Players drafted in the first and rounds get the kind of money and lengthy contracts that make it worthwhile to leave school early. First round contracts generally go for five years and are worth anywhere from $8-20 million (former Gators Derrick Harvey got a five-year, $23 million contract when he left a year early following the 2007 season). Second round contracts generally go for 3-4 years and range from $3 million to $5 million over the course of the contract.

After that, the longevity of the contracts drops off as does the money. The way Mrs. Webster sees it, the twins would be better off to stay in school and finish their college degrees if they are going to be drafted in the third round or later.

“They know they have my blessing to go if it’s in the first or second round,” she said. “For that kind of money they’re set for life if they invest it right and they can always go back to school to finish up school in the offseason but if it’s third round … well, I’d just as soon they stay in school. They’re both going to be close to graduating in the summer.”

Coming out of high school in Lakeland, the Pouncey twins were mainstays on the offensive line for a team that won 45 straight games, three straight state championships and two straight national championships. They committed to Florida in early June of 2006, choosing Meyer and the Gators over Florida State even though they grew up Seminole fans. They were part of a contingent of seven Lakeland players who signed with the Gators. Safety Ahmad Black, tailback Chris Rainey and fullback Steve Wilks are still with the team. Wide receiver Paul Wilson was forced to take a medical hardship back in August and defensive tackle John Brown transferred to a Mississippi junior college.

When she sent the twins to Gainesville as early enrollees in January of 2007, Lisa Webster hoped they would be able to realize their dreams to become great college players so they could one day play in the National Football League. She also hoped they would realize her dream.

“My dream was for them to get their college degree,” she said. “That’s still my dream for them. I’m a mom. I want them to see all of their dreams come true, but football doesn’t last forever. Someday that ends and that’s why I want them to graduate. They could get injured or something like that and then what do they have? That’s why I want them to graduate so bad.”

So she expects Mike and Maurkice to test the waters and see what their draft prospects will be. She knows Urban Meyer will put her boys in touch with the right NFL people so they will have a realistic idea of where they would go in the draft.

No matter what feedback they get, Mike and Maurkice will sit down with Lisa and Rob Webster to discuss their options but unless the consensus of draft experts says first or second round, Lisa Webster knows where her sons will be next year.

“If they have some assurance about the first or second round, I’ve got no problem with them going,” she said. “We’ll still talk about it if they’re not hearing first or second, but if they’re not first or second, I think they need to stay put, finish up school and graduate. The NFL will still be there and they’ll have their education.

“So go ahead and tell everybody that if they’re not in the first or second round, they’re going to stay put.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.