The phone at Coolidge High football coach Jerell Robinson's home was quite busy last Sunday. The first call came from assistant Andre Warren after Oakland's Jerry Porter caught a 29-yard touchdown pass to put the Raiders up 17-10 over the New York Jets in their AFC playoff game.
A few minutes later, Porter made a 50-yard catch to set up another score. This time, it was Bryan Crupton, the Coolidge basketball coach, on the phone.
From 1994 to 1996, Porter starred in baseball, basketball and football at Coolidge in Northwest D.C. Now the standout player for Robinson, Warren and Crupton was on football's biggest stage -- the playoffs -- and he was overshadowing teammates Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, both future Hall of Famers.
"I wasn't surprised because he's always been a talented athlete," said Robinson, who coached Porter in baseball before becoming football coach two years ago. "But it was really wild watching Porter outdo Brown and Rice."
Porter (six catches, 123 yards) helped lead the Raiders to a 30-10 victory, propelling them to Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans for a chance to play in the Super Bowl.
The Raiders are your parent's NFL team, with Brown, 36, and Rice, 40, still setting records and 37-year-old quarterback Rich Gannon winning the league's most valuable player award.
But Porter, 24, has emerged as a deep threat, a potential star. When the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder was being interviewed by reporters following the game, Raiders owner Al Davis briefly interrupted with mock admonishment: "You're ruining it for those old guys. Cut it out."
During the regular season, Porter led the Raiders' receivers with nine touchdowns, catching 51 passes for 688 yards as the third receiver. Over a 10-game stretch, Porter caught at least one touchdown pass seven times. But after only making three catches in the final two regular season games, Porter had a breakout performance last Sunday.
"I just don't want them to forget about me," Porter told reporters afterward. "When you play with two Hall of Famers like we've got at wide receiver, some stuff is going to naturally rub off.
"But I think I can hold my own, and I love getting the ball."
Raiders Coach Bill Callahan agreed: "He could be a '1' [top receiver] on most teams in this league, but he's an unselfish player. He knows his role, and he plays it well."
Porter's success has been remarkable because he was basically new to the wideout position when he was selected out of West Virginia in the second round (no. 47 overall) of the 2000 draft.
Porter didn't become a full-time receiver until the second half of his senior season at West Virginia. Robinson recalled Porter being recruited at Coolidge by the Mountaineers mainly as an athlete capable of playing safety and backup quarterback. He spent his first three years there as a defensive back and emergency quarterback before making the switch.
His versatility, however, was always a given. At Coolidge, in addition to wide receiver, he also played safety, quarterback, fullback, cornerback and defensive end. He also played center field while lettering for the baseball team, was a forward and slam-dunk champion on the Colts basketball team, and competed in track as a sprinter and long jumper.
In high school, Porter was too busy shifting from sport to sport and position to position to really stand out in one area.
"He excelled at all of them," said Robinson, who last saw his former player in the spring, when Porter visited the school and exchanged tosses with baseball players before rooting them on. " . . . Wherever we needed him at, we fit him in there."
Porter's first two seasons in the NFL gave little indication of Sunday's performance. The wideout caught only one pass as a rookie and 19 in his second season. Gruden pushed Porter in practice, but the rookie bristled at his coach's approach. And Gruden -- now the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will play the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC title -- lost patience with his young receiver.
Some veterans felt that Porter wasn't deferential enough, especially someone with minimal accomplishments as a receiver in college. Porter had refused to participate in rookie rituals: carrying bags off the sideline or bringing food on the plane for veterans. Robinson wasn't surprised to hear about it.
"He's a pretty proud person, and thinks highly of himself," Robinson said.
"But he got along with everybody. He was just a well-liked person."
After Callahan was named coach of the Raiders last year, he told Porter that he would receive more of an opportunity. Nonetheless, Porter had remained skeptical "That's the same talk I had with Gruden before my second year," Porter said this week. "[Callahan] stuck with me. I appreciate him for that."
Porter helped matters by exhibiting a strong work ethic, a trait that Gruden had claimed was missing. And soon, Porter became the third wideout in an offense whose main set includes three receivers and tailback Charlie Garner.
Sunday against the Jets, the score was tied at 10 at halftime, when the Raiders decided to employ a more vertical game the rest of the way. (In the first half, the Raiders had 15 rushes to 10 passes, a conservative approach uncharacteristic of Oakland's pass-happy offense.) And despite the Brown/Rice combination, no wideout on the Raiders stretches the field more than Porter. He combines size, strength and speed (running a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash).
"He allows us to spread the field," Callahan said, "and do so many things vertically."
With 4:24 left in the third quarter, Gannon completed a 29-yard pass to Porter down the left sideline for a 17-10 lead. On the Raiders' next series, Porter found a seam in the Jets' zone for a 50-yard gain to the Jets 15. Three plays later -- and 45 seconds into the fourth quarter -- Rice was open for a nine-yard score, giving the Raiders a 24-10 lead. Meantime, the phones kept ringing in Robinson's Fort Totten home. Of course the baseball, basketball and football coaches were proudly watching.