On any given day at the University of Miami, you might run across a 6-1, 325-pound bruiser cruising on four wheels down San Amaro Drive in Coral Gables.
Make way for Curtis Porter, dark shades and all, as he rides his longboard through campus.
“It’s soothing,” Porter said, “and keeps my mind off all the stress.”
Be assured that this starting Hurricanes defensive tackle knows all about stress. The physical ailments he endured his past four years at UM might make even the bravest among us cringe.
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The broken bone in Porter’s right index finger protruded through the skin and was excruciatingly painful in August 2011. But that was before the finger got infected — twice. That season he made appearances in the final two games.
In 2010, after playing in eight games the previous season as a freshman, Porter was carted off in Game 2 at Ohio State with a season-ending knee injury during his first career start.
Ready to make his mark during fall camp of 2012 — he had finally earned the coveted black jersey that goes to first-teamers — Porter went down in practice with a knee injury. He vowed to overcome it, but after a subsequent rehab session, was in so much pain in his lower abdomen that he rushed to the training room.
“Bam!” Porter said. “My appendix almost burst.”
So off he went to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy — after which he got an infection and didn’t return until Nov. 1 last year.
Now, for the first time in seemingly forever, Porter has endured a successful offseason, even better fall camp and finally, as a redshirt senior, will play in his first opener Friday against FAU.
“Healthy, strong and positive,” said Porter, who put on 18 pounds of muscle and reduced his body fat to 23 percent since last season. “This is my only year to show the world what I can do.”
Goodness knows the Canes need him.
Miami’s run defense was among the worst in the nation last season, ranking 112th of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. UM allowed 217.9 rushing yards per game in 2012.
Enter Porter, alongside fellow tackle Olsen Pierre, for the final four games — the last two of which Porter started (USF and Duke). Over their final three games, the Canes allowed an average of 133 rushing yards, which would have ranked them 28th in the nation.
In his only two games of 2011, including the Boston College finale, Porter finished with 10 tackles.
Regarded as a bull whose wide, meaty body can fill gaps and wreak havoc in the middle, Porter, 22, is being looked at as the plug the Hurricanes desperately need.
“To me he’s the man in the middle,” outside linebacker Denzel Perryman said. “Nobody can block him.”
Backup tackle Luther Robinson described Porter as “tough and explosive off the ball. He’s been through a lot but he never quit.”
Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio and coach Al Golden have repeatedly said that Porter could be a significant talent if he could stay healthy, conditioned and maintain consistency.
“The guys have a lot of respect for him,” D’Onofrio said. “He’s flashed and shown ability and that he can have an impact on plays. What we’ve got to get him to do is have an impact on games.”
Porter, who already earned his undergraduate degree, grew up in Charlotte, N.C., with a single mom “and family back home that really needs a lot of help,” he said. “I come from nothing and I’m trying to make something. I don’t want anybody in my way.”
He said he never could have imagined he’d only have played in 15 games (with 24 tackles) in four years, but vows to stay positive. A minor “back issue” this week had seemed to rectify itself by Tuesday, Golden said, adding that Porter needs “some luck” with his health for a great season.
“Just trying to play ball and school the youngins and keep moving forward,” Porter said. “I’ve learned that it’s no good to be negative because it’s only going to bring you down. I look at my career game to game and see what I’ve done.
“The proof is in the pudding. I’m a game changer. Just imagine if I played a whole season.”