October 30, 2002

IN RESPONSE TO MY REQUEST FOR A CHEERFUL STORY, reader Ken Coltrane sends this one:

Northwest football coach Dave Frantz and Tigers’ coach Derek DeWitt shared a conversation the week leading up to the game.

But the two coaches weren’t discussing strategy, instead they were talking about a mentally-handicapped Northwest player by the name of Jake Porter.

Porter, a senior, has a disorder called “Chromosomal Fragile-X,” which is the most common cause of inherited mental retardation.

Porter still shows up on time for practice every day and dresses in full gear during games, but he has yet to take an official snap in a football game.

Frantz wanted that streak to end last Friday. . . .

At Waverly’s 49-yard line, Porter entered the game at tailback, had his play, “84-iso,” called in the huddle, and when the ball was snapped all 21 players parted ways.

Porter was somewhat surprised when he slowly walked through the huge hole. He initially turned back around to the original line of scrimmage, but everyone on the field — including defensive players from Waverly — pointed and guided Porter toward the Tigers’ end zone.

“When we practiced it, he was supposed to down it, so I think he was a little confused at first,” Northwest tailback Zach Smith said. “But once he figured it out, he took off.”

The 49-yard trek to glory took about 10-12 seconds in all, and was culminated by players from both sidelines cheering and running step-for-step with Porter to the end zone. . . .

“At Waverly, we didn’t do anything special. We were just happy to be a part of that,” a humbled DeWitt said. “That young man was just excited to get the ball. Our guys didn’t care about the shutout, those stats went out the window.

“When you’re involved in a moment like that, you want to make sure you end the game with class, decency and respect.”

Indeed.