Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter is finally “back home”, as he put it, and while everybody appears to be happy about it, nobody can match his own enthusiasm for his latest employment opportunity.
But yesterday was the first time he could talk about how happy he is to be back, because the Steelers don’t allow their assistant coaches access to the media before minicamp. Unsurprisingly, he had plenty to say.
“I was wondering how long it was going to take me to come back home”, he said. “It’s been a while, but I’m back now, and I’m happy to have this opportunity”.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s just like old times. After all, it’s been going on eight years now since he first left the organization. “Oh, it feels like I left. It feels like I left”, said Porter. “It’s different now, but, I’m different than when I was a player now. Change is good”.
And that change led the sack specialist to the realization that, in the twilight of his playing days, he wasn’t ready to be done with the game:
“As a player, towards the end of my career, I knew I wanted to get into coaching. I didn’t know which way I was going to go about it, because at the time I wanted to take some time off to hang with my kids and my family. I coached them in little league for two years.”
But, “as fun as that was, it wasn’t enough to fill that void that’s inside me that I’m used to”, he said:
I had an opportunity to go coach college last year, and when I got in that atmosphere, I knew where I wanted to be, but I was willing to take whatever job I had to to get there. I was fortunate. Stuff kind of happened fast for me. Just a year ago I was coaching little league, and a year later now I went from college to the NFL, so I’ve been blessed; it’s been a good transition.
And Porter’s transitioned as a person, much as he’s also stayed the same:
“I’m a 37-year-old. I was a baby when I came in at 22…15 years in this business of working as a player and now being a coach—in time, I don’t care who you are, you will humble yourself at some point in time when you get older. I can just say I’m older. I’m wiser than I was as a young man of 22”.
Of course, the reality is that Porter wasn’t hired for his public relations skills, let alone his disposition. He is a coach, not a cheerleader, and he says that he will bring the same level of enthusiasm to his new life in football that he did during his playing days. “I’m going to coach like I played”, he said.” I’m going to coach with my emotion. I love to get after it”.
That he does. According to Dale Lolley, Porter is the only coach he’s ever seen that has to ice his knees after practice. That’s because he’s so hands on in his coaching methods, going through the reps himself to show the young players the proper technique.
The Steelers expect their former pass-rushing star to bring a lot to the coaching staff, particularly with respect to helping the current crop of outside linebackers get the most out of their own pass-rushing productivity, which has been lacking in recent years. But don’t for a second make the mistake of believing that Porter doesn’t relish the opportunity the organization is also giving him:
I’ve got a lot of good coaches that I get to learn from. I’ve got a man that I worship to death in Dick LeBeau, and then Coach Butler, the linebacker coach who coached me, so I’m in there with familiar faces who know me, so I don’t have to change. I’ve been working with [John Mitchell] since I was 22, so the coaching staff that I have the opportunity to work with is amazing because these guys know exactly who I am.
I’m just going to bring what I bring. I’m learning from them on how to get the best out of a kid, so I’m just in a position where I’m happy to get this opportunity. I’m sitting back and learning as much as I can while I have them for as long as I do.