Monday, May 04, 2009

Patriots’ Porter wrestles with an all new field

Former Kent State wrestler looks to make transition to NFL
By Glen Farley

May 1, 2009

Jermail Porter is well aware that the New England Patriots have gone to the mat for his type before.

“I watched a lot of wrestling film on Stephen Neal, first and foremost, because he was probably the greatest college heavyweight of all time, even internationally,”Porter said between Friday’s double session on the opening day of the team’s rookie minicamp on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium.

“So I watched a lot of film on him and this is the avenue he took. It seemed like this could be a possible transition for me as well.”

Like Neal eight years before him, Porter is attempting to make the transition from collegiate wrestler to professional football player.

“I’m learning,” said Porter, who has gone from All-America heavyweight wrestler at Kent State to a rookie free-agent offensive lineman in the Patriots’ rookie minicamp. “It’s a different world for me.”

It truly is an all-new world to the native of Akron, Ohio.

“Very new,” he said. “I didn’t play high school or college, obviously. I didn’t even play peewee because I was always overweight for the weight limit. And I end up wrestling. Go figure. I have no experience. This is all new to me. It’s a whole new world.”

A whole new world Porter was anxious to explore.

“This is something I wanted,” said Porter. “I’ve been thinking about this since my junior season of college. I wanted to pursue this after college. I just wasn’t sure where to start.

“Fortunately, some people pointed me in the right direction so here I am.”

The right direction ultimately being Foxboro, where Neal, who, like Porter, employs Neil Cornrich as his agent, has found a football home.

It was 2001 when Patriots head coach Bill Belichick brought Neal in from Cal State-Bakersfield where he’d won two NCAA Div. 1 wrestling titles. Three years later, after a couple of lengthy stints on injured reserve, Belichick had himself a starting right guard.

“With Stephen, we started him on the defensive side of the ball and eventually moved him back to the offensive side of the ball,” Belichick reflected on Friday. “We just have to see how it goes (with Porter). Right now, he’s working on offense. We might flip him over. We’ll see how it goes.

“We’re just kind of taking it day by day and see how he does in different drills, different situations and just take it one step at a time. (We) really haven’t any expectations other than as long as he’s improving, we’ll keep working with him and see where the best fit might be.”

In the coach’s opinion, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Porter may fit in New England.

“He’s certainly a good-looking kid,” said Belichick. “(He’s) got a good frame, got good balance. We know that from wrestling.”

Porter, who compiled a 119-43 career record at Kent State and placed sixth at this year’s NCAA Championships, believes lessons learned on the wrestling mat can translate to the football field.

“Leverage, balance, footwork — all that kind of stuff so far, as far as I’m learning, all transferred over,” said Porter. “It’s very much a part of football as it is in wrestling.”

That aside, Porter realizes he will have to make major strides in order to pin down a job in pro football.

“Coach ‘Scar’ (offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia) and all those guys are very patient with me,” said Porter. “I’m learning. I’m the most inexperienced guy out here so I’m learning every second.

“I’m maybe like five percent in there. My body’s there, but I’m catching on. I feel more informed. I know more now through this first practice than I did before I came in here. (I’m) trying to work hard and learn more.”

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