October 28, 2009 9:29:00 AM
Service and commitment are important words to Ben Porter.
Growing up in a family with a proud history of military service for this country, Porter hopes to follow that path by joining the United States Naval Academy.
Before gets to that crossroads in his life, Porter and the New Hope High School football team have some unfinished business to take care of this season.
Porter and the Trojans will play host to Hernando (7-2, 4-1 Class 5A, Region 1, District 2) at 7 p.m. Friday in their final home game of the regular season.
A victory likely would help New Hope (7-1, 4-1) clinch second place in the district and earn it the opportunity to play a first-round playoff game at home.
Porter has done his part by playing multiple roles this season. Even though Porter doesn''t start, New Hope coach Michael Bradley said Porter is an integral ingredient to the team''s success.
"Ben is an unselfish player and is the kind of kid every team needs," Bradley said. "Ben is a leader vocally and with his actions. He puts his money where his mouth is, and what I mean by that is he talks the talk and he walks the walk."
Porter has seen playing time on special teams, on the offensive line, at tight end, at linebacker, and at defensive end. Bradley said Porter''s willingness to play any role sets an important example for a team that is trying to become a program.
New Hope went 1-9 in Bradley''s first season three years ago. The Trojans went 6-4 the following season before breaking out in a big way last season. An 8-5 finish and a trip to the third round of the Class 4A North Half state playoffs showed the pieces were coming together for the Trojans.
Porter played football as a freshman -- and had played ever since he was in elementary school. He said it was an adjustment coming back to the sport after not playing as a sophomore. He said he has enjoyed being part of a team that is growing into a program.
"If I had to say I had a biggest mistake in my life," Porter said of not playing football his sophomore year. "But when I got back here it is probably when I really learned how to work hard and more self-discipline because we had a real program then."
The excitement of being a member of the team comes from the fact Porter and the Trojans have adopted a "never be satisfied" attitude. It''s a mind-set that drives him not to accept good and to strive to be great at whatever he does.
"Coach has got us to believe and we make each other believe. That is how we work," Porter said. ""You don''t make a commitment and then do it lightly. You''re teaching yourself bad things and you''re setting yourself up for failure if you do that."
New Hope''s start to this season has raised the bar even more. Bradley said players like Porter have set the standard for future classes to reach even higher.
"We have a lot of great kids like him," Bradley said of Porter. "He is the kind of kid, like I said, I want to have around. He works hard and I can''t say enough good things about him. I enjoy coaching him. He is definitely a poster child for the kind of kid we''re tying to build in our program."
Bradley, who served as an officer in the Army, paid Porter an even higher compliment when he said he would serve under Porter. He said Porter is an ideal candidate to be an officer because he is a leader who "puts people first" and is someone who "knows the key to any successful organization is people."
Bradley credited Porter''s family for instilling in him the values that make special young men. He praised Porter for doing the same thing for the New Hope High football program.
"I hope people in positions to make such an appointment (to the Naval Academy) see the qualities Ben Porter possesses," Bradley said. "I hope he gets an opportunity to go to the Naval Academy. I am sure a lot of kids are deserving to go, but I have never had one more deserving than him."
Porter will apply for congressional nominations that are required for admittance to the Naval Academy. He has been working through the enrollment process for more than a year.
Porter, who would like to study aerospace engineering, hopes to be able to build planes and to attend flight school. A career in the military would enable him to continue a family tradition. His father, Brad, served in the Navy and his uncle, Danny, is an active member of the Marine Corps. His great uncle, the late Bob Davis, served in the Army.
For now, though, Porter wants to continue to set an example for his teammates and help the Trojans continue to build their football program.
"I could see when I was a freshman that we had the players. The fact was we didn''t have kids who believed," Porter said. "I left because I didn''t see a direction. There was no if you are down, fight hard to get back up. It was you got beat, let''s let the game mellow out, and lose the game like New Hope always has. That was really bad, but it was like that for years.
"My freshman year, we went 1-9 that year, but they played differently. ... They believed a little more, but not as much as they needed to. Last year, we went 8-5 and made it to the third round of the state playoffs. ... Each year we have to build off that. This year was either going to be New Hope is good, or New Hope just went back to the same old New Hope and they had a lucky streak last year. ... We''re 7-1, and you can see the program is building on itself. We''re teaching values, and those values stay with the people who are going to move up next year. Whenever there is a problem, we weed it out. If a kid is hurting the team and we try to get him to do right and he won''t do right, he won''t be here for long. It is not that we''re harsh, we''re up front now. There is no BS now. If it takes losing a couple of kids, that''s what it takes. If you want a real program. That''s what it takes. You have to be willing to sacrifice. When we win a state championship this year it will because we sacrificed and we worked as hard as we could and we earned it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.