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The GBH tribute to the Senior class continues with my personal favorite, Sean Porter.
I love defense. I cut my Aggie football teeth watching the latter years of the Wrecking Crew under R.C. Slocum, and I fell in love with the linebacker position. Keith Mitchell, Dat Nyguen, Warrick Holdman, and Jarrod Penright...I loved them all. Those who know me personally are painfully aware that my favorite Aggie of all time is Jason Glenn. Offense may sell tickets, and I do love me some Johnny Football, but I'm a defense first kind of guy.
The ten years prior to 2012 could accurately be referred to as the Dark Age of Aggie Football. And while we experienced occasional flashes of hope, none of those fleeting moments were the result of the defensive domination I was weaned on. Its shameful to admit, but by the time Sean Porter arrived on campus in 2009, A&M had not seen a defensive All-American in ten years (Jason Webster -1999). Furthermore, A&M had not produced a single All-Conference linebacker since Jason Glenn in 2000. Gone were the heroes, attitude and swagger of the Wrecking Crew. Our defenses no longer had that "come and take it" defensive persona that made Kyle Field one of the most feared venues in the nation. The Wrecking Crew was dead, and the idea that A&M had once referred to itself as "Linebacker U" was laughable.
All that began to change when Sean Porter strapped on his A&M pads in 2009.
I instantly adopted Porter as a personal favorite when I saw him play during his freshman year. Sean Porter just had "IT". He was born to play linebacker. Not only did he display the sideline-to-sideline speed and aggressiveness of A&M linebackers of old, he played without fear. He could fill the gaps and meet the running back head on AND WIN. He could rush the passer. He could play coverage. In short, Sean Porter could do it all, and he could do it when it counted. I'll never forget watching him play at the Independence Bowl, the second start of his career. It was then that Dr. Camacho and I began to refer to him as simply "Porter", a reference to Mel Gibson's character in the movie "PAYBACK". From that time on, Sean Porter was simply "Porter". A man among men in a man's world.
Sean Porter played in all 13 games as a true freshman, emerging as a starter and defensive presence opposite Von Miller by the end of the season. He emerged as a defensive force during his sophomore campaign, racking up 74 tackles and 6 pass breakups. By the time his junior season began, Sean Porter was the established leader of the Aggie defense. Here is a just a small piece of trivia for you: Von Miller had 5.5 sacks during the two years without Sean Porter. He had 27.5 in his two seasons with Sean Porter by his side.
Porter's best season statistical season came as a junior in 2011. Porter amassed 79 tackles (50 solo), including 17 TFL's and a team leading 9.5 sacks, good enough to earn him All-Big 12 honors and a spot on the preseason All-SEC team in 2012.
However, like so many of these seniors, I won't remember Porter for what he did prior to 2012. No, I will remember him for how he led the A&M defense into the brave new world of the SEC. This past season we were ridiculously thin on defense, and Porter was asked to play nearly every snap. He was called upon to play in coverage more, turning over some of the pass rushing limelight to Damontre Moore. His 2012 stats weren't eye popping (66 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 PD), but if you paid close attention you saw Sean Porter making big plays when we needed him to.
Some will point to the interception against Alabama as the highlight of his season, but A&M's great run in 2012 doesn't happen without Sean Porter's game saving tackle against Ole Miss ( skip to 2:13:30 ). Without that tackle, A&M doesn't emerge on the national scene and Johnny Manziel does not win the Heisman. I will also remember Porter standing up the "Belldozer" during A&M's goal line stand in the first quarter of the Cotton Bowl (skip forward to 0:22:30). That play set the tone for the game, and the Aggies never looked back.
I don't know Sean Porter. I've never met him, never interviewed him, never talked to him. All I know about him is what I saw on the field, and that was the best A&M linebacker in over a decade. Sean Porter never missed a game during his A&M career, starting the last 40. That's dependability defined. That's leadership. Mostly, its a testament to how great a player Sean Porter is, which can't be defined solely by his still impressive career totals of 261 tackles, 34.5 TFLs, and 14.5 sacks.
Years from now Aggies looking back fondly on this 2012 team may overlook #10 due to Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman and the monster years that Moore, Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews, and Mike Evans all had, but I won't. In the mind of this writer, Sean Porter should go down as one of the titans who placed A&M football on his shoulders and lifted it back to national prominence.
Good luck in the NFL, Sean. You are my favorite player from this year's team, and one of my favorite Aggies of all time. Like I said earlier, I love defense. Thank you for giving me so much to cheer about these past 4 years.