It was worth the wait for Porter Jr.
Joey Porter Jr. had to wait an extra day to hear his named called in the NFL Draft, but it was worth the wait
By Teresa Varley May 09, 2023

The old proverb, 'Good things come to those who wait,' proved to be true for Steelers rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

Porter, the son of former Steelers linebacker and assistant coach Joey Porter Sr., was one of 17 players invited to attend the NFL Draft in person in Kansas City, but as the first round drew to a close, Porter's phone remained silent.

That is when the young Porter got some advice from his dad. The older Porter gave his son a pep talk, telling him to take it personal that teams passed on him, use it as motivation moving forward instead of disappointment now.

The first step in moving forward was leaving Kansas City instead of staying in town for the second night of the draft and heading back home to Pittsburgh to wait it out.

And it was so worth the wait.

When he was a kid, Porter Jr. told his parents, as he wore a Steelers helmet, that he wanted to play for the Steelers one day.

That wish came true when his phone finally rang at the start of the second round.

When he looked at his phone and saw the number, his infectious smile was present once again.

"It was unreal," said Porter Jr. "We always had this in the back of our mind, what if we end up in Pittsburgh. It was going to be an easy transition. I knew everybody on staff. I've been around people there so much, so it would be an easier thing for me and my family."

While it was in the back of their minds all day Friday, they truly had no hint or indication from the team of what they were planning on doing. Despite the close relationship with the family, nobody gave them a heads up that he was going to be selected by the team with the 32nd overall pick.

"I wanted it to be the Steelers so bad for him," said Porter Sr. "But they did such a good job of not letting us know. I have over 50 friends in that building that know me personally and I got nothing from anybody to say, 'man, be ready, it's coming,' or anything. We wanted it. Trust me, that's what we wanted. But we just didn't feel like we could say for sure that's what it was going to be."

That made it all the sweeter for the Porters when the call came and General Manager Omar Khan and Coach Mike Tomlin were on the other end delivering the news.

"It made the emotions even better not knowing," said Porter Jr. "Just to have us by the string, we really didn't know. When we got the phone call, it surprised everybody, and everybody was happy. The emotions were a 10. They did a great job of holding it in and not letting anybody know because without that, our emotions wouldn't be so real. It was just such a great moment."

The entire Porter family, Joey Jr. and Sr., mom, Christy, and his siblings were beside themselves when that call from the Steelers came.

"It was surreal," said Christy Porter. "The time started winding down before the phone call and it came in and I glanced over and saw the 412 area code. I was like … oh my goodness. It was like deja vu when Joey got the call 24 years ago. It was surreal and special.

"There were cheers, screaming, tears, every emotion you can think of we experienced in that last 24 hours. It went from sadness, to happiness, to overjoyed."

While mom was in tears, dad was just beaming from ear-to-ear as his phone exploded with texts and calls.

"It was amazing. I mean, absolutely amazing," said Porter Sr. "The excitement was crazy because we've been back in Pittsburgh for a while. It's where he played his high school ball, he played his college ball in Pennsylvania. Now to actually be drafted by the team who brought us to Pittsburgh, to Pennsylvania, in the first place. It's the first locker room he ever walked into and now he's walking in there because he works for the team. I mean, this is absolutely amazing. I am at a loss of words, actually."

Not long after hanging up with the team, the Porters hopped in their car and made the short drive to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Instead of doing his media availability over the phone, he decided to just do it in person and stop by the facility and see everyone.

"That is a drive I know by heart," said Porter Jr. "My dad and I were talking about how crazy this is. The whole setup is perfect for all of us, so we just really can't believe it. The whole 20-minute drive to the facility, just us laughing the whole time talking about memories of us going in the building. Now it's switched, and I am going to be bringing him in the building."

When the Porters arrived, they were well prepared, everyone decked out in their black and gold.

But it was Porter Jr. who selected something special. He was wearing one of his dad's hoodies from his coaching days that had his initials on the front, as well as the DMR patch on the sleeve in honor of late Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.

"That was just something cool to have," said Porter Jr. "He used to wear that coming in the building. It has the patch to honor Mr. Rooney on the side. It is a tribute to the whole Steelers organization. It was a little throwback moment."

Throwback moments. Those are going to be plentiful for the Porters in the upcoming months and years. There are so many memories father and son shared from playing days to coaching days that have already come flooding back.

Porter Sr. can remember the first few times he brought his son to work with him, days when football wasn't the first thing on his mind. Porter Jr., along with other players' kids, would come in on off days and Saturdays to spend time with their dads, having fun and turning the hallway outside of the Steelers locker room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex into a racetrack.

"He was about four and he would be playing with Damon Haggans, Clark's son," said Porter Sr. "They had these Hot Wheels go carts and I would carry them into the building. They would love to come up there on a Monday or Tuesday, on an off day when a whole lot of players weren't there, and the hallways were wide open. They would ride the go carts down the hallway outside of the locker room as if it was a racetrack and then head right into the locker room. And now, from doing that in like 2004 and now fast forward to 2023 when he is a grown man and heading into his dad's old locker room, it is just amazing."

Porter Jr. had to laugh at his dad's recollection, but that is what he remembers most too from his childhood. It wasn't the games, including Super Bowl XL when Porter Sr. held his two sons, Joey and Jacob, on the field after the game. Nope, back then it was just the fun times kids love to have.

"We used to do races and just cut up in there," said Porter Jr. "That was my first memory of being in the Steelers facility."

The football memories didn't come until later, when Porter Sr. was back with the Steelers as a member of the teams coaching staff and his son was in high school, already mapping out his football career.

"I would come in there and see him and be in the locker room with guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and even JuJu Smith-Schuster when he was a rookie," said Porter Jr. "Just having all those guys come up to me, talk to them and just give me knowledge about the game. That was probably one of my top memories.

"That's when it was real for me. I would be thinking I could be playing against you guys in a couple of years if I do everything right. It gave me the motivation to get to the NFL and be able to show my talents."

The Steelers are part of the Porter family, just as the Porters are a part of the Steelers family. When you say someone bleeds black and gold, that is the case for this family.

"We are a Steelers family. Steelers for life," said Christy Porter. "To see that come full circle and Junior go out there and play on that field, it's unreal. We are anticipating tailgating, things fan experience, we are ready for it. I can't even imagine his first game, hearing the crowd, seeing him come out there. I am going to lose it.

"I can't wait to order his jersey, with Mom on the back of it. I just can't wait."

That 'Steelers family' always meant having the door open for the Porters, whether he was playing, coaching, or even after that time ended. The once a Steeler, always a Steeler mentality never left, and Porter Jr. witnessed that time and time again.

"The Steelers mean everything to me," said Porter Jr. "They treated me like I was a player when I first came into the building, and I was just a kid. And then I came again when I was in high school and they treated me with love and let me do all the things I needed to do to elevate my game, going to training camp, letting me be a ball boy to be around the players and everything. The Steelers always treated me nice, and this is just awesome."

Porter Jr. visited the Steelers prior to the NFL Draft as a local visit, one of his first visits to the practice facility without his dad. It was a reunion for him and as he walked to his car following the visit, in the back of his mind he was thinking about the potential of returning again.

"The visit went great," said Porter Jr. "Everybody was happy to see me. I was happy to see everybody. It was just like a big family reunion. When I was leaving, I'm like shoot, I could be pulling back in here any time now. So definitely had that in the back of my mind."

When Porter Jr. does return to the Steelers facility this week for rookie minicamp, he will something else in his mind. The advice his dad gave him.

"He told me two things that keep you on and off the field, and that is keeping up with your body and knowing the playbook," said Porter Jr. "So that's what I'm trying to do as soon as I walk in. Another thing he told me is to be true to yourself. Don't change for anybody. That is what I am trying to do."

Dad can't help but smile, knowing when he does take the field for the first time that a small part of him will be with his son.

"This is one of those surreal moments where you automatically remember where it all started and how we got to this point. It was a journey," said Porter Sr. "From where he started until now, and then me getting drafted there, and 24 years later, here he comes going to the same organization. That's rare where father and son are drafted to the same team. My legacy is in Pittsburgh, not only did I play, but I coached here. My playing is known for what I did in Pittsburgh.

"Now that he is going to have his chance to tell his story and play football in Pittsburgh, it is awesome. Now he has the chance to tell his story and play football at the same place as me, it's just awesome."

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