In the world of sports, it seems as if the term “professional” is loosely based on professionalism.
The term may be based on winning percentage, shoe endorsements, or even the number of charges an athlete has amassed thus far in his career.
Not charges like the one a basketball player may take on the court, but the charges players take in court.
Marijuana possession, illegal steroid use, and various other criminal charges and convictions have plagued all of America’s “professional” sports at one point or another.
Enter two high school football coaches, and one Jake Porter to turn the world of “professional” sports upside down.
During a game between Northwest High School and opposing Waverly, (who was leading the game 42-0) a timeout was called with seconds left in the game.
The two opposing coaches met at midfield to discuss a plan they agreed upon the week before.
Porter, a mentally retarded player for Northwest was supposed to enter the game and take a knee in order to expire time.
Just touching the ball would be a thrill for Porter, who attended every practice and dressed for every game, but due to his condition, never got a chance to play.
However, the opposing Waverly coach was not happy with the decision.
He approached Northwest’s Dave Frantz for a second time and decided to let Porter score a touchdown.
That is exactly what happened.
The play was called; the quarterback handed the ball off to Porter, and the defense parted ways.
Porter, confused, ran the wrong way for a few yards, but when seeing his teammates and even opposing players point to the end zone, took off and never looked back.
Porter then ran 49 yards scoring a touchdown that was heard round the world.
Many who know this story were touched by the heroics Porter displayed, and the class both coaches embodied.
Hopefully, many athletes who heard this story were disgusted – not by Porter, but by themselves.
In a time when players are becoming more aggressive on the court and more careless off it, it’s good to see a real “professional” be rewarded.
Not with a multi-million dollar contract or endorsement deals, but with the simple thrill of playing the game.
A simple thrill that many athletes forget.
Northwest Superintendent Bob Ralstin agrees, saying, “I think that’s why people are captivated by this story. In this day and age with so much negative news, we as a nation need these types of things to restore our faith in the human [race].”
It’s a shame, but Ralstin is right. More and more people, including athletes that we admire, are fouling up, big time.
Take for example, Philadelphia’s own Allen Iverson who many look up to and regard as one of the best in professional basketball.
But Iverson has showed up late to practice, if at all, has had run-ins with coaches and players, and most recently the law.
With all due respect, Iverson may be able to run faster or jump higher then Jake Porter any day, but I don’t care.
Porter greets every day with passion and optimism, never misses a practice, and builds strong relationships with players and coaches.
In my book, that’s a real professional.
Brian Lausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org