Jake Porterís emotional story has gripped the Southern Ohio
by James Walker, The Herald-Dispatch, November 10, 2002
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Northwest football coach Dave Frantz should have listened to
Liz Porter's motherly instincts years ago.
Perhaps he would have been better prepared for the frenzy
that's currently taking place.
"It was about three years ago," Frantz recalled. "She said
ĎOne day, with Jakeís personality, heís going to make national
news. And when this happens, I want everybody to know how
great Southern Ohio is to embrace Jake and take him in as one
of their own.í It was like she scripted it."
Northwest High School player Jake Porter has scored the
touchdown heard around the world.
As predicted, Lizís son, Jake Porter, has become a household
name over the last three weeks. The 17 year old was born with
"Chromosomal Fragile-X," which is the leading cause of
inherited mental retardation.
But with the help of two coaches, 21 players, and a dash of
the human spirit, Porter of Northwest High School was granted
the memory of a lifetime when he ran for a 49-yard touchdown
in the gameís waning moments against Waverly High School.
Although he had practiced everyday with the team, Porter had
only taken a knee in one other game because of his physical
Both Frantz and coach Derek DeWitt of Waverly agreed
beforehand to let Porter come in and do the same at end of
this ballgame. But with Waverly leading 42-0 in the fourth
quarter, DeWitt and his team opted to abandon the shutout for
the sake of sportsmanship.
It was a rare breath of fresh air in a year thatís been
difficult for all Americans.
The timing was perfect. The deed was even better. And once the
story circulated, it didnít take long for our nation to
"I think thatís why people are captivated by this story,"
Northwest Superintendent Bob Ralstin said. "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)."
"Itís amazing how far-reaching itís been," Liz Porter said.
"We all get caught up in the business and sadness of life, and
we sometimes forget whatís really important. Thereís just so
many more good things out there if we just look."
"If you say Jake -- he may not be the only Jake in the school
-- but everybody knows who youíre talking about." -- Northwest
coach Dave Frantz
Porterís touchdown run against Waverly wasnít the beginning.
It was just a continuation of a comfortable environment the
school district had already provided.
The district is one of the few in Scioto County that houses
mentally handicapped kids from the elementary level up, which
Ralstin says helps kids learn to mesh with others that are a
little bit different from them at an early age.
Porterís family came to McDermott from Dayton, Ohio when Jake
was 13. By the time he reached high school, he was already one
of the schoolís most popular kids.
As a freshman, the homecoming queen got to choose her escort
to the big dance. She picked Jake.
Two years ago as a sophomore, star running back Doug Montavon
took Porter under his wing, and the two quickly became good
Porter was mentored by Montavon, who during his senior year
set the single season rushing record for the Mohawks, and he
ended up helping teach Porter how to tie his shoes and write
his name in the process.
Montavon currently plays football for Glenville State in West
Virginia, but the two still call each other on a regular
Frantz said if anyone deserved to see Jakeís memorable moment,
it was Montavon.
"I really hate that he didnít get to see Jake score, because
Doug was very instrumental in bringing him along at the high
school level," Frantz said. "Wherever he was, Jake was."
"Iíd give anything to see that tape, just to see his
reaction," Montavon said. "I know we (Northwest) lost by 40.
But after that, I bet it felt like we won by 50."
"Everybody feels connected to it." -- Liz Porter
What started out as an innocent meeting between two coaches at
a Park and Ride bus station, quickly became national news.
"Only in Southern Ohio," Frantz utters.
Porterís touchdown run took place on Oct. 18, and by the
following week, local newspapers and television stations were
calling to get a hold of both coaches.
Jake Porter has some great sportsmanship footsteps to follow
with his coach Dave Frantz.
A column in The Herald-Dispatch sparked a response from radio
stations, newspapers, and television stations from across the
country. The Porter story was also widely circulated
throughout the internet.
Porterís run was aired at halftime of the Nov. 2 Ohio
State-Minnesota game, and the showing of good sportsmanship
has been featured on everything from "The Sports Reporters" to
"The Jim Rome Show."
A wave of e-mails and letters have flooded both coaches and
the Porter household since, and everywhere Jake goes, he is
the talk of Southern Ohio.
"It makes the world seem so much smaller and so much more
connected," Liz Porter said of all the attention. "Everywhere
people know about it. Itís really interesting to see how
people heard of the story."
Professional sports organizations such as the Oakland Raiders
and Memphis Grizzlies have also extended its congratulations.
If they ever decide to visit the Oakland area, Raiders
representative Amy Trask has already offered players and
coaches from both teams to be their honorary guest during any
home game. And last week, Steve Becvar of the Grizzlies front
office mailed in Jakeís first present of the holiday season.
"Steve Becvar contacted us after hearing about it on the Mike
and Mike (ESPN Radio) Show," Frantz explained. "And the next
thing you know, Jake had a signed photograph of Jerry West."
But youíd be surprised what Porterís biggest fascination with
the media has been thus far. He has a liking for microphones
and tape recorders, and often likes to hold it himself while
Itís Jakeís way of being comfortable and in control of a
situation heís normally not use to.
"Iíve got to buy me one of those," Jake Porter said.
"Itís already on his Christmas list now," Liz Porter added.
"It gives our kids a sense of being thankful for what they
have." -- Northwest Superintendent of Schools Bob Ralstin
Chromosomal Fragile-X, also known as Fragile-X Syndrome, is a
gene that is prevalent in approximately 1-in-3,000 men and
1-in-4,000 women. But perhaps the most alarming statistic is
that 1-in-250 women carry the gene and many donít even know
Jeffrey Cohen of the National Fragile-X Foundation likens the
condition to a dimmer switch, in which a light is never turned
on or off. But instead, itís always kept at a low level,
affecting the childís ability to learn and process
"This at least partially explains why there is such wide
variations of Fragile-X," Cohen said. "There are people that
are mildly affected, there are some more moderately affected,
and then there are individuals that are more profoundly
On average, most parents of children with Fragile-X do not
realize their child has symptoms of the condition until the
age of three. Thanks to the help of organizations such as
Cohenís and others, improved awareness has recently helped the
average age of discovery decreased by almost two years.
Cohen lives and works in the Detroit, Michigan area, and first
heard of the story through an internet message board, and then
during a local sports-talk radio show.
He immediately sent the Porter family a special letter on
behalf of the organization, acknowledging Jakeís
"The importance of stories like this is that everyone has
value," Cohen said. "There are unique characteristics in the
way that they learn, and creating a school and a community
where everyone is involved is important."
Porterís Influence On Others
"No one will remember the score 10-20 years from now, but they
will remember what Jake Porter did." -- Waverly coach Derek
Jake Porter has been a huge source of inspiration for people
nationwide, and especially with families of those with
The Herald-Dispatch has received more than 800 e-mails and
letters from readers and many of them have either known
someone, worked with, or are raising children who are
Liz Porter and coach Frantz also said theyíve received a large
percentage of the letters from families with
Both agree that this has been the most rewarding part of this
"I think this has done a lot for parents of kids with
disabilities, and to me that means more than anything in the
world," Frantz said. "Weíre all here for the kids, and if this
helps people keep a positive outlook for those kids, then I
will be thrilled."
"This shows that there is a place for them in the day in and
day out of things and how much like every kid they are," Liz
Porter said. "They like to be involved and have something to
give just like everybody else."
Despite all the pessimism that surrounds us, when you look
deep into Jake Porterís eyes, you see a world of limitless joy
Every morning, Jake gets out of bed and arrives the happiest
kid at the school.
He makes our day-to-day complaints of fatigue and bad hair
days seem trivial.
To this day, Porter still does not understand the significance
of his touchdown run. He only believes his score was worth six
But to the warmed-hearts and tear-filled eyes of many of us
across the nation, Porterís triumph was worth so much more.