Over the last few years, Auburn High’s football team has been well known for its outstanding defenses. With cornerback Omari Porter back to make plays in 2019, the Tigers are certain that trend will not end this fall.
Porter was a consistent contributor for an Auburn defense that gave up just under 11 points per game last season, ending his junior year with 25 tackles to go with 11 pass break-ups and a pick six. Auburn graduated some key players from its defense — including in the secondary — but Porter is as poised as ever about meeting goals.
“This offseason's been more about the team and how I'm trying to prepare them and the other leaders on the team to be at the same mindset that we had last year, which was a state championship,” Porter said. “Unfortunately, we fell short of that, but I feel like this year we have enough talent and the pieces to do that. All of my focus has really been geared to making my team better and bringing them up with me as I get better so we all get better as a team.”
Porter’s path to this point wasn’t a walk in the park. He played wide receiver until his freshman year, at which point he was moved to defensive back. The shift forced Porter to learn on the fly, and although there’s been some natural growing pains, he has shown a willingness to learn that has benefited him greatly.
Porter said there was never a eureka moment when it came to playing defensive back — it was more a matter of making strides all along the way. Auburn High head coach Adam Winegarden pointed to Porter’s football IQ as a key part of what has helped him reach this high level of play.
“First of all, he really understands football. We always say that a smart player is a faster player,” Winegarden said. “He really understands the game. He understands leverage. He understands defense. He has a great mindset of how to approach competition play after play. Plus, he has athleticism to go with that.
“He's at a high level fundamentally, athletically and mentally.”
Porter’s appreciation for the game is not hard to fathom. Porter is the son of Larry Porter, the longtime college football coach who is now an assistant at Auburn University. Along with exposing football to his son at an early age, Larry has been able to be a guiding hand in a recruitment process that led the younger Porter to commit to Stanford on July 18.
With his future lined up with the Cardinal, Porter’s complete focus is on the Tigers. Porter finds himself in a region that is expected to feature strong quarterback play this fall, but that notion doesn’t faze him.
“We know the league that we're in … It's a tough region. I probably think it's one of the toughest regions in 7A,” Porter said. “I'm not scared of any quarterback. They're going to have to make throws, and I'm going to have to defend the ball. It's just only going to make me better and make them better.”
Porter explained one of the key attributes that separates a good defensive back from a great one is not making the same mistake twice. Porter strives for perfection but understands it’s lofty nature, and instead he pointed to not getting down after giving up a play and learning from it.
Porter has been part of two Tigers defenses that dominated thanks to several stars stepping up to the challenge. Now it’s Porter’s turn to lead, and he has no intent of wasting it.
“I've been ready ever since our last game. It was just a week after that that we were trying to get the bad news out of our system,” Porter said. “I feel like we've always had leaders behind the guys that were leaders last year — they just weren't in their roles yet. Those guys are going to have a chance to show off what they can do leadership wise, and I feel like we're really good in that aspect.
“We're going to be fine.”