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A SHARED EXPERIENCE: Grambling's duo of Dougs — Porter and Williams — boasts Hall of Fame friendship
A familiar face could be found among the crowd.
Doug Porter was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, with former player and protégé Doug Williams in attendance.
The roles had been reversed in 2001, when Williams was named to the hall’s divisional class as a player. Seven years later, Porter was recognized in South Bend, Ill., for head coaching work at a trio of lower classification programs.
Porter also served from 1966-73 as an offensive assistant during the career of Grambling State’s Eddie Robinson.
There, he met Doug Williams, then a young quarterback. Later, after retirement, Porter returned to become a key mentor when Williams succeeded Robinson as head coach at Grambling.
“It was big for me when Coach Porter showed up for my induction,” Williams said. “When I found out that he was going in, I thought that was one of the greatest things. I got a chance to repay Coach by being there for him.”
Porter won 61 percent of the games he coached, recording 166 career victories at former Division I-AA programs Mississippi Valley State (1961-65) and Howard (1974-78), then at Division II Fort Valley State (1979-97). He also served as athletics director at Fort Valley from 1981-97.
He might have won more still, had Williams followed Porter to Howard.
Williams certainly wanted to, back then.
“He was frustrated as a red shirt,” Porter said. “He was running the scout team, but he felt he was better. He wasn’t playing.”
Porter, then as now a wise and fair man, knew the steep coaching climb ahead at Howard. But he wasn’t willing to pluck Williams out of a more favorable situation.
“It wasn’t in Doug’s best interest to come,” Porter said. “He wouldn’t have been surrounded with the kind of people he had with Eddie: He wouldn’t have had Dwight Scales; he wouldn’t have had Sammy White — and those people were big contributors to his success. Had Williams come to us, he would have been a great quarterback, but throwing it to a group of receivers who made a lot of drops. That wouldn’t have helped him.”
Williams would win a pair of league championships under Robinson, success that launched him into the race for the Heisman Trophy. Williams then became a first-round NFL draft pick, and eventually earned Super Bowl MVP honors in 1988.
A lasting relationship, built as much on trust as on gridiron concepts, was forged.
Fate brought them back together in 1997, when Porter returned to Grambling upon retirement. Williams was in the midst of launching the difficult post-Robinson era — something nearly unthinkable after his stirring 57-season tenure — and Porter’s guiding hand again played a key role Williams’ success.
“It was Doug Porter who helped me though the whole transition,” Williams said. “He wasn’t looking for publicity for what he did. It wasn’t hard for me to see that I needed Doug Porter close by me.”
Long after retirement, Porter — the son of a coach, Memphis prep legend W.P. Porter — still possessed a keen passion for football.
“We’d sit down every day after practice and I would tell him what I felt,” Porter said. “He was very amenable, though sometimes we would disagree. I could accept that, because it was his football team. The only thing I wanted to do was help him be successful.”
He was: Williams, with Porter on the sidelines in an advisory role, would win a trio of Southwestern Athletic Conference titles in 2000-02, and was one game away from the championship match in both 1999 and 2003.
They now boast another bond, another shared memory in a lifetime filled with them.
“He had such an impact on my life,” Williams said. “He had a lot to do with the success that I had. In my life, Coach Porter has been a Hall of Famer for a long time.”