Six-foot-4, 325-pound Monroe offensive lineman Hakeem Porter (65) wreaks havoc up front for the Tornadoes, tallying 32 pancake blocks a season ago and drawing interest from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Auburn. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
Getting to know Hakeem Porter
The Dynamite “Half-Dozen” Q and A
Here are a half-dozen questions for our Dynamite Dozen players about their likes off the football field:
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: “My grandma’s chicken.’’
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Big Daddy with Adam Sandler. There’s something about that movie that really touched me.”
Q: Who is your favorite entertainer (movie star, comedian, singer etc)?
Q: Who is your favorite NFL player?
A: “Ray Lewis.”
Q: If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be with you?
A: “K. Michelle.”
Q: Who is the person you owe everything to?
A: “My grandma. She’s always been there for me.”
He told his grandmother he wanted to buy her the car when he was 10. That’s when he made the promise.
Nothing’s changed — not the car, not the promise, not the dream.
“It’s a black Cadillac. That’s what she wants,’’ said Monroe offensive lineman Hakeem Porter, a two-time Herald Dynamite Dozen selection. “That’s the car I’m going to get her.’’
What about a new house?
“I’ll buy a house, and she’ll live with me,’’ Porter said. “I’m going to take care of my grandma and take of my siblings. That’s my dream: to make it to the NFL and take care of my grandma and my family.’’
It’s there, beating at the center of Porter’s heart, a grandmother who took him in when he was a baby, a little sister he babies and a little brother who is hearing impaired. Porter wants to wrap his huge arms around the three of them with a bear hug that will last a lifetime.
“He is all about his family,’’ said Monroe assistant coach Travis Lockhart, who is closer to Porter than anyone outside of Porter’s family. “That’s what he’s been talking about since he got here in ninth grade. He told me when he got here in ninth grade that he wants to get to the NFL so he can take care of his grandma and his brother and sister.
“He loves his grandma to death. She’s the love of his life, the lady in his life. She wants the best for him, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for her. He wants to make it so he can take care of her.’’
Sweet notion for the gal they call Sweetie, a woman who told Porter when he was 8 years old that he could make it to the NFL. He believed her.
Sweetie Porter is just one of those grandmas. You know the kind — ageless and spilling over with wisdom, always there with the right words, the right touch and just the right feel for what it takes to turn a child into a man — God-fearing and always believing in a better tomorrow.
“My grandma means everything to me,’’ Porter said. “Every time I go on the field, I think about her. When things get hard, I think about her and everything she has done for me. She took me when I was a baby and took care of me all my life.
“She always told me I was going to be a football star, and I promised her, ‘When I get to the NFL I’ll get you anything you want.’ ’’
That’s what drives Porter, all 6-foot-4, 325 pounds of him — drives him past every defensive linemen they put in front of him.
“I’ve never seen anyone block like he does. I’ve seen him drive a guy right into the end zone, and I’ve never seen an offensive lineman do that,’’ said Monroe linebacker Anthony Smith, who is also a Dynamite Dozen selection.
Porter’s blocks are legendary. He had 32 pancake blocks last year and is piling them up again this season. Several colleges — including Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Clemson — are looking at Porter, and he could play at a major Division I school.
“Georgia has been down here twice to see him (recently) and (Georgia offensive coordinator) Mike Bobo has been watching him since he was in the ninth grade,’’ Lockhart said. “Bobo and Georgia’s offensive line coach were here in the spring, and they couldn’t get over how well he is put together and how dominating he is on the line.’’
Lockhart said he expects Porter to play at a major Division I school, and he added that Porter’s dream of playing in the NFL is real.
“I think he’s got a shot,’’ he said. “If he stays focused, he can do well in college, and I think he will have a chance (at the NFL).’’
Porter has size and strength and great feet for an offensive lineman, and he is such a tremendous student of the game that there are times when he changes the play at the line of scrimmage, just like a quarterback does when he recognizes a defense. Porter spots a defensive alignment and tells Monroe QB Charles Stafford to change the play.
“He can do things most linemen can’t,’’ Lockhart said. “He pass blocks with the best of them and his run blocking. Well, he had 32 pancakes last year. He is very knowledgeable of the game. He sees and recognizes defense and tells Charles to audible to another play. He’s a quarterback with a lineman’s frame. He’s a phenomenal player, but he’s a better person than he is a ball player.’’
Porter started at Monroe as a freshman and never slowed down.
“He came in and he wasn’t scared and he was able to handle his own with the seniors,’’ Monroe coach Charles Truitt said. “We expected big things out of him, and he has been one of the top linemen we’ve ever had. He’s a leader out there. He calls the plays for the offensive line and all the kids look up to him.
“He’s a playful kid, and he’s a big kid with the ability to be a big, tough kid. If he plays hard every play, there’s nobody he can’t block.’’
Everybody calls Porter “Wal-Mart,” a nickname Lockhart gave the big lineman — not for his size, but because when Porter smiles, he resembles the smiling face on those Wal-Mart commercials.
About the biggest compliment anyone could ever pay to Porter comes from a rival team, where the kids call their best offensive lineman, “Sam’s Club.’’ It’s a left-handed compliment to just how much Porter is respected.
All the Monroe players look up to Porter.
“It’s a sight to see the way the opens up a hole,’’ said Monroe’s Jawaski Randle, who starts in the secondary and also plays running back. “It will be so clustered and then he spreads an opening. It’s like an ocean, a big ocean. When he opens a hole for you, you could run all the way to Texas. He doesn’t just stop there, he keeps running downfield.’’
Porter also plays on the defensive line at times — a fact that defensive back Ernest Davis loves.
“I’m glad he’s on my team. I know before the year is over, he will create a pick for me on defense,’’ Davis said. “When he plays defense, he makes big plays and he will make a play on the quarterback that is going to give me a pick. I know that will happen this year. He will put you on your butt when he plays defense.’’
He simply lifts Monroe.
“He keeps us up. When we are facing adversity, he’s the one who keeps us up and motivates everyone,’’ Smith said.
Randle said Porter inspires the team.
“He’s like the Ray Lewis of our team,’’ Randle said. “When we are down, he gets us up. And he gives speeches before the games. He gives speeches when we are coming out of the locker room before we go on the field. He tells us how much the game means. He says, ‘This is the moment you have waited for. This is the moment to live for, to die for. Leave it all on the field.’ ”
Porter, a four-year starter, wants to leave Monroe with a stamp on the program.
“I want this to be the best team in Monroe’s history,’’ said Porter, who knows no Monroe team has ever gone past the second round of the state playoffs.
That’s where last year’s team lost to state-ranked Gainesville, 16-13.
“I know if we get to that point this year, we will know what to do,’’ Porter said. “That’s what’s special about this year. It’s my senior year. And it’s all about ... how far can we really go? It’s all about the team. I want to be the best team to ever come through Monroe.’’
The best ever? Not a bad goal.
And a dream of even winning so much more.
“I’ve had that dream of getting to the NFL since I was little, getting there and helping my grandma — to give her anything she wants,’’ Porter said. “I wouldn’t look at the game the way I look at it today if not for my grandma. She did everything for me.’’