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Porter Is More Than Just Talk

J.A. Adande

February 03, 2006|J.A. Adande | J.A. Adande can be reached at j.a.adande@latimes.com. To read more by Adande go to latimes.com/adandeblog.

Guys like Joey Porter are the reason sports books should take prop bets on the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

The smart money for Player Most Likely to Go Off in a Press Conference would have been on Porter. And the Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker would have been easy money.

All it took was a little comment by Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens -- that the Jerome Bettis homecoming story would not have a happy ending because he would walk away a loser -- for the wraps to come off Porter.

The Seahawks (and the quote-famished media) got Joey Porter unplugged, unleashed and unwrapped for two days. He called Stevens "soft" and a "first-round bust" and made it clear Stevens would be hearing from him come Sunday.

"I am out for anybody in blue, but definitely him," Porter said. "I have my chance to go out and I definitely will have my turn."

Everyone has their roles to play during Super Bowl week, and Porter dutifully performed his. The loudmouth, the outspoken guy, the loose cannon.

He's the guy who once got in a fight before the game even started.

He's the guy who accused the officials and the world at large of cheating for the Indianapolis Colts after the referee overturned an apparent Troy Polomalu interception in an eventual Pittsburgh playoff victory. That one earned him a rebuke by an otherwise supportive Bakersfield columnist, who called Porter's remarks "incredibly irrational and child-like."

But none of those labels sounds right to Ned Permenter, who coached Porter at Bakersfield's Foothill High.

"It's a bad rap," said Permenter, who retired four years ago after four decades on the job. "Joey is an emotional person in the pros. He does play with emotion. He puts himself out on a limb sometimes to make himself back it up.

"He didn't do that in high school. I had him on a short leash in high school."

Last summer, the coach and his former player even joked that Porter never did his dirt-kicking sack celebration at Foothill.

"No, Coach, you didn't condone that," Porter said.

The other major change with the Porter of today is that now he's in position to help others.

When Permenter wanted an item to use for a sports-collectible charity auction last fall, he sent a football to Pittsburgh, where Porter brought it to the Steeler locker room and had his teammates sign it, then returned it with a couple of Terrible Towels for packing. It went for $1,500.

The shoes the football team wears, the new ones with the swooshes on the side? Porter hooked them up from Nike.

He also gives college scholarships to two Foothill graduates every year, Permenter said.

Porter held a football camp last summer, bringing in teammates such as Bettis and James Farrior, and $17,000 in proceeds to Bakersfield's Richardson Center, a preschool for high-risk infants and special-needs children.

"It's refreshing to me when a local person becomes successful and they bring pride to our community," said Kern County Superintendent of Schools Larry E. Reider, whose district oversees the Richardson Center. "And it's even more refreshing to me when a person remembers their roots and gives back to that community. Joey has certainly done that. He's done it for sports. He's involved in our community. He's a good citizen and we're proud to have him."

Porter also raises money for autism research. His younger daughter, the second of his four children, is autistic.

And when running back Princeton McCarty of Bakersfield's West High tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the title game in December, Porter arranged for McCarty to have surgery at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles, paying for the operation.

"I'm just touched and appreciative of how he gives back," Reider said. "You always have to remember where you came from. And Joey's done that."

It's also important to remember who you are. Porter is the guy who speaks his mind, who breaks through the endless stream of cliches in Super Bowl week.

As the people of Bakersfield could tell you, things are usually better when Porter's around.

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