NILES – Growing up in the shadow of athletically gifted parents can be both a blessing and a curse for any athlete trying to achieve success on their own.
The experiences and expertise shared by parents can provide invaluable advice and insights. The expectations and automatic assumptions you will perpetuate about sporting heritage can be daunting.
“Just take it all in stride” said Mahoning Valley Scrappers wide receiver Taj Porter. “I know the expectations can be a bit crazy and unwarranted. But personally, I’ve been blessed, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences all my life. I was in a great environment.
Porter’s mother, Carla, played basketball at the college level, while her father Ricky Porter played professional baseball at the AAA level (Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies) and played in the NFL in the early 1980s. for the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Colts.
Ricky Porter went on to serve as an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos and, most recently, the New Orleans Saints.
Ricky Porter was a two-time All-American selection and MVP for the football team at Slippery Rock University. He became the first player in school history to be drafted into the NFL when the Lions took him in the 1982 draft.
Taj Porter was born in 1999 in Mandeville, Louisiana. There he attended Northlake Christian High School. He began his college career at Louisiana Lafayette and ended his career this spring after three years at Southern University.
“I grew up in a very competitive family, but it was competitive in a good way, it made me a better athlete and a better person,” Porter said. “I was never pushed into playing sports. It’s just something I’ve always loved.
“All the stories I heard about my dad’s playing days were positive. All the memories I have of my dad coaching in the NFL are fond memories. I feel like growing up in the environment that I did helped me learn to manage where I am right now. At the end of the day, baseball is a breeze, you have to have fun with it.
Porter grew up playing baseball, football and soccer. He was a football and baseball player in high school, noting that he enjoyed both sports equally.
“It boiled down to the fact that the best college deals were for baseball, and I have no regrets,” Porter said.
At Southern University, Porter was part of two teams that qualified for the Southwestern Athletic Conference title game. He won a conference championship ring in 2021.
“I loved the college experience, I loved the way my playing career unfolded,” Porter said. “I’ve become a better person and a better player and have met some great people and had some special moments along the way.”
Porter describes himself as “a utility player”, noting that he grew up playing third base, shortstop, and second base. He even pitched for a while, then eventually found himself behind home plate. Porter acknowledged that the physical demands of capturing “can be quite trying” but believes the role has made him a better player – and will help him achieve his goals beyond his playing days.
“Mentally, it keeps me really sharp,” Porter said. “I am directly involved in every play. Other than the pitcher, I touch the ball more than anyone on the field. I have a lot of control over the game and the pitching team, and that has made me a better player and teammate.
“For me, being a receiver puts you in a position where you have to be a leader on the field. In a way, you are a bit like a manager on the pitch.
And – just like his father – Porter hopes to one day become a coach or manager.
“I love the game, I want to be in the game for as long as possible and coaching would give me that opportunity,” Porter said. “And again, it comes down to all the positive experiences that I’ve seen and been part of growing up.”
“I’ve had the chance to work in an excellent sporting environment all my life. Now I just want to go out and make a name for myself.