Douglas Porter, who had a five-decade long career in coaching and athletic administration, earned induction into the College Football Hall of Fame for his work helming three lower-division programs.
A new honor will hit closer to home for the Grambling, Louisiana, resident: He’s entering the Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame as a contributor for the work he did as an assistant to Eddie G. Robinson and key advisor to Doug Williams.
“He had such an impact on my life,” said Williams, who had Porter by his side for a trio of conference championship as coach in 2000-02. “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.”
He had already built a program from the ground up before arriving in Grambling, beginning with a stop as head coach at Mississippi Valley State (from 1961-65). After an eight year stint as an assistant under Robinson, he then served as head coach for the FCS program at Howard University (from 1974-78) and finally at Division II Fort Valley State (from 1979-94), where he was a longtime athletic administrator, as well.
The job at Grambling came after Porter helped reestablish a Valley team that had gone five years without a winning season before his first in 1963.
“Hadn’t beaten Jackson, hadn’t beaten Alcorn — in ages,” Porter said, sizing up Mississippi Valley State’s performance against key league foes. “Two years before, Grambling had beaten us 93 to nothing.”
He finally began to gain on Valley’s cross-conference rivals and, in the process, to earn Robinson’s respect. Porter had gotten blown out by Grambling during their first trio of meetings — and by a combined score of 149-12. But Porter was gaining, losing by an average of about two touchdowns over the last three games.
“We came down in 1965, we played in Grambling — and we led at halftime,” said Porter, whose .550 winning percentage in Itta Bena, Miss., has only been bested once among MVSU coaches who stayed five or more years. “We lost 34-20, but we had been ahead 14-7. That was a measure of where we had come. We had gotten to the point where we could play anybody on our schedule. That was what I had hoped to do when I came there.”
A year later, he was in Grambling, where Porter would run an offense that featured future Pro Football Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner and quarterbacks James “Shack” Harris and Doug Williams, later a Super Bowl MVP.
“I have as much respect for Coach Porter as any one I have been around,” said Harris, who later played for the NFL’s Bills, Rams and Chargers. “As good a coach as he was, he always played his role in shadows. That couldn’t have been easy for a person of his skill.”
Grambling claimed six SWAC titles in the eight years Porter served under Robinson — three of them with Harris, who compiled a 31-9-1 record at Grambling. Every Grambling senior was drafted by the NFL in 1969. In 1971, 43 of Robinson’s players were in pro football camps.
“Even when I got to Fort Valley, the lead story was always that I was formerly an assistant under Coach Eddie Robinson,” Porter said. “That’s what they would start with. That gave you credibility, the fact that you had worked with Coach Rob.”
Porter said the chance to work alongside an American legend at Grambling — and to mentor fellow 2011 Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Famers Harris and Frank Lewis — made what amounted to a demotion to offensive coordinator an attractive offer.
“He was very effective in a variety of situations,” Harris said of Porter. “He was someone who really knew the game. Coach Porter was a leader in his own right. You respected him.”
Porter, who won 61 percent of the games he coached, was then 30-21-2 in five seasons as head coach at Howard — part of a career record of 166 victories. At Fort Valley, a Division II program in Georgia, Porter captured seven Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships between 1980-92, including four in a row from 1982-85. He coached at Fort Valley — save for one year — from 1979-97, and served as athletics director from 1981-97. Porter also made two NCAA playoff appearances on his way to seven league coach of the year honors.
Porter retired back to Grambling, where he became a trusted advisor to each of Robinson’s successors, including Doug Williams, Melvin Spears and Rod Broadway. He was also a steady presence in the lengthy efforts to establish a museum in Robinson’s honor.