GAINESVILLE, Fla. – They were teammates at Lakeland High and then with the Gators.
On Saturday, former Gators running back Chris Rainey and Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey were NFL Draft-watching buddies at Pouncey's home in Lakeland.
Cheers erupted when they learned they were going to be teammates again when Pittsburgh announced it was taking Rainey in the fifth round, the 159th overall selection in the draft.
Another former UF teammate of Rainey's – Maurkice's brother Mike, a rookie with the Dolphins last season – planned to join them to celebrate Saturday night for a full-fledged Gator reunion.
"This is my dream team,'' Rainey said. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."
While undersized to be an every-down NFL running back, Rainey has the versatility and speed to be a dangerous player on offense and special teams.
Here is a Q&A Rainey held with reporters shortly after he became the 24th Gator to be picked by the Steelers in the NFL Draft:
Q: What role did they tell you that they would like you to fill?
A: I can play running back. I can play slot. I can play special teams. Wherever they want me, because I’m a playmaker all around. I fell that I fit perfect with the offense.
Q: Do you have any injuries that could be an issue entering the NFL?
A: I only had one injury and that was in high school. I had shoulder surgery and have been fine since then.
Q: How close are you with the Pouncey brothers?
A: I lived with them all throughout high school. I am real close with them, but Maurkice is the one that I always had fights with because he is the aggressive one.
Q: Did you think the Steelers were going to draft you?
A: I was hoping, but you never know what happens in the draft. I watched an E-60 about the draft and all of these players waiting. They all just waited patiently and there was something waiting for them in the end.
Q: Were the Steelers one of the teams you had talked to?
A: I talked to them but I didn’t have a clue who was going to pick me.
Q: Are you a running back or wide receiver first?
A: I love running back.
Q: What kind of lesson did you learn from the texting incident?
A: I became a better man; I matured. I learned a lesson not to do that ever again. It’s something I know that I won’t ever do again. I didn’t even know that you could get in trouble over a text. Plus, I wouldn’t harm a fly.
Q: Did that hurt you in the draft?
A: I think so. I just have to prove my point, and prove myself to show people that I’m a good dude. That is all I can do right now.
Meanwhile, here are a few sound bites from others on Rainey:
-- "Chris is a guy that we’re real excited to bring into the mix. I think he is a very versatile player that is obviously fast and explosive. He can catch the ball, he can run with it and he can return it. That’s a commodity and we’re really excited to bring him aboard and work with him and put him into the mix. He is a situational player when it comes to offense. It might be third down, it might be by package, you might see him as a receiver or as a running back, but you’ll see him do a little bit of everything. Obviously as we get to know him a little better we’ll be able to iron it out to exactly what his role will be. We’re excited about getting an explosive, fast player with some of those skills in the building."– Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley
-- "It will be good for him to reunite with Maurkice -- he is someone Chris has spent a great deal of his life around. He will do whatever he is asked and is eager to begin his professional career." – Gators coach Will Muschamp
-- "[He can play] in the backfield, outside the backfield, in the return game. He's an explosive player in the SEC. When you're fast on the SEC fields, chances are, you're going to be fast on the NFL field." – Steelers coach Mike Tomlin
While Rainey is heading to Pittsburgh to begin his NFL career, former Gators teammate Jaye Howard is heading out West.
Howard was selected by Seattle in the fourth round on Saturday, the 114th overall player taken. Howard nearly missed the call from Seattle early Saturday afternoon because his battery ran out on his cell phone on a trip to the mall.
When the Seahawks called to let Howard know, he so happened to be in an Apple store recharging his phone.
"Good timing,'' Howard said. "I recognized the (425) area code because of Coach Quinn's phone number so I picked up. I think this is a good fit for me and I have some experience in some of the things they do."
Howard had projected as a later pick than Rainey according to most mock drafts, but his status improved at the NFL Combine when he posted one of the best times in the 40-yard dash among defensive linemen.
"Jaye made tremendous strides during the last year to put himself in a position to be a valued pick in the NFL Draft," Muschamp said.
Howard, who didn't start playing football until the ninth grade, is joining a Seahawks team that features several players who are familiar with Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Quinn was Seattle's defensive line coach before coming to UF in the spring of 2011.
"It helped me a lot [playing for Quinn],'' Howard said. "He got my technique right and helped me grow as a player."