The best day in an NFL player’s life (aside from marrying the love of his life or the birth of his children) is when he’s drafted into the league and officially becomes a pro. That life-changing moment can be briefly thrown when reality doesn’t beget expectations.
Waiting in the green room, awaiting their names to be called makes hours seem like days. Dressed to the nines with bling to match, these guys have worked their whole lives for this singular, fleeting moment. Some, like C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr., didn’t have to wait long to cross the stage to Commissioner Roger Goodell and pose proudly with their new team’s jersey.
For Brian Branch, Keion White, Will Levis and Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., it felt like an eternity. They had to wait longer for their dreams to be realized. Anticipated to go in the first round, all four were honored with the prestigious invite to attend the NFL draft festivities in Kansas City. They watched and waited as players like Jack Campbell, Calija Kancey, Peter Skoronski and Darnell Wright — who weren’t invited to Missouri — went off the board ahead of them.
The Pittsburgh Steelers made a smooth move, trading up to the New England Patriots’ original spot at No. 14. Would Porter’s name finally be called? “With the 14th pick of the 2023 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select… Broderick Jones, tackle, Georgia.”
As the evening dragged on, a dejected and frustrated Porter was spotted being comforted by his father. Joey “Peezy” Porter Sr. had been there, done that two and a half decades earlier as the 73rd overall pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Peezy offered some words of wisdom from close-to-home personal experience, suggesting that his son use the round-one snub to his advantage. “There’s nothing like motivation, right,” Porter Sr. said in a scene aired by NFL Films’ “Hey Rookie, Welcome to the NFL.”
“They want to see a pissed-off football player, now they got one,” he continued. “You see what I’m saying? So now, follow me when I say, when I be giving you little nuggets about what we gotta do and how we gotta work. Just follow me because this will be part of the whole motivation now. You know where you were supposed to have went and all that. We ain’t got control over that. That’s why I was trying to prepare you for anything, ’cause I already know anything can happen.”
“I know how these drafts go. But what I’m telling you is, now you’ve been motivated to another level because we’ve got something to prove. And take it personal, as you should. You did everything you’re supposed to do. You ain’t letting nobody down here.”
The Day Joey Porter Became a Pittsburgh Steeler
After the evening’s final pick, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, was announced, Keion White, Will Levis and Joey Porter packed their belongings and flew home. Branch stood tall and returned to Union Station, where his name was called 14 picks into day two.
The torment for Porter didn’t last long on the draft’s second day. He was taken with the first pick of the second round (No. 32) by the team he wasn’t initially expected to fall to at No. 17. It was fate. He would play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team he was raised by.
When all you hear is noise for months – projections, other’s expectations for you – and when it doesn’t happen, it’s soul-crushing. But Porter would not be wearing the Black & Gold this season if he was taken in the first round, either before or after. Everything happens for a reason. And this reason was that he was meant to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.