Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey takes part in blocking drills with the offensive line Tuesday.
By Douglas Farmer Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey first paved a path for running back Chris Rainey in their junior year at Lakeland High School in Florida. He continued to do so their senior year and for the majority of three seasons at the University of Florida.
Now, thanks to the Steelers selecting Rainey in fifth round of the recent draft, Pouncey likely will have the opportunity to keep blocking for the 5-foot-9 speedster.
"I love it," Pouncey said during the Steelers minicamp this week. "I've been doing that for him ever since he was little."
The three-year veteran lineman is familiar with Rainey's explosiveness.
Rainey rushed for nearly 2,500 yards and 32 touchdowns in his senior year of high school and amassed 920 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore for the Gators, all with Pouncey blocking for him.
Rainey's favorite bulldozer left for the Steelers in 2010.
But, after one April phone call, the two were back on the same side of the line of scrimmage.
"I wanted to get picked by the Steelers," Rainey said. "I know people here and I love to run behind Pouncey. "I've been running around with him my whole life."
Rainey not only loves to run behind Pouncey, he has also been running with him for just as long. Rainey lived with Pouncey's family most of high school. It's no surprise that they give each other a hard time as only brothers are allowed to do.
At first, Pouncey only laughs and shakes his head at the thought of paying Rainey a compliment.
Then, he remembers they have been playing football together for the majority of the past eight years.
"I think about it now, looking back at it, we have some awesome memories together, and I'm hoping we can build more," Pouncey said.
"Just for the opportunity to play at the high school level together, the college level together, and now in the NFL together, it's an awesome experience for us."
Rainey had insisted Pouncey would only say good things about him.
How would he respond to the initial sarcastic laugh?
"I forgot he does trash talk a little bit," Rainey said.
"It's weird, but it's a blessing.
"It's great to have that same person who you know will do the right thing every time."
At some point, Rainey hopes he can pay Pouncey back for all his heavy lifting in the trenches.
"Most times, he wants me to flip [the ball] back so he can score a touchdown," Rainey said.
"One of these days, if I ever get a chance, 10 years from now, I'd do it for him."
In the meantime, Rainey will focus on making an impact with the Steelers this season.
While he could dream of serving as a change-of-pace option, Rainey instead talks extensively of special-teams success.
"It always starts with special teams," he said.
"That's the No. 1 thing in my book.
"Special teams always comes first because that's a big part of a football game."
Rainey is no stranger to success on special teams. He racked up a conference-record six blocked punts as well as two punt returns for touchdowns at Florida.
"As soon as I make a difference, they'll know I contributed to the team," Rainey said.
"I'll do anything for the team. Maybe then, I'll deserve to play on the offense.
"I'm just making plays, doing my job, and, hopefully, I get a chance to run."
If that chance comes, it will likely be with a familiar friend leading the way.