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The Play of the Year
Rick Reilly
November 18, 2002
Jake Porter is 17, but he can't read, can barely scrawl his first name and often mixes up the letters at that. So how come we're all learning something from him?
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November 18, 2002

The Play Of The Year

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"I told Derek before the play, "This is the young man we talked about on the phone,' " Frantz recalled." 'He's just going to get the ball and take a knee.' But Derek kept saying, 'No, I want him to score.' I couldn't talk him out of it!"

"I met Jake before the game, and I was so impressed," Dewitt said. "All my players knew him from track. So, when the time came, touching the ball just didn't seem good enough." (By the way, Dewitt and his team got their shutout the next week, 7-0 against Cincinnati Mariemont.)

Into every parade a few stink bombs must fall. Mark Madden of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette grumbled that if the mentally challenged want to participate in sports, "let them do it at the Special Olympics. Leave high school football alone, and for heaven's sake, don't put the fix in." A few overtestosteroned Neanderthals on an Internet site complained, "That isn't football."

No, it became bigger than football. Since it happened, people in the two towns just seem to be treating one another better. Kids in the two schools walk around beaming. "I have this bully in one of my [phys-ed] classes," says Dewitt. "He's a rough, out-for-himself type kid. The other day I saw him helping a couple of special-needs kids play basketball. I about fell over."

Jake is no different, though. Still happy as a frog in a bog. Still signs the teachers' register in the principal's office every morning, ready to "work." Still gets sent on errands, forgets where he's going and ends up in Frantz's office. Still talks all the time, only now it's to NBC, ESPN and affiliates from CBS and Fox about his touchdown that won the game.

Yeah, Jake Porter thinks his 49-yard run made for a comeback victory. He thinks he was the hero. He thinks that's why there were so many grins and streaks down people's faces.

Smart kid.

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