DENVER – Kevin Porter never wanted to be in the spotlight this season, but in the end, there was no question he earned it.
Michigan’s senior captain was the deserving recipient of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given to the nation’s best college hockey player, Friday at the Pepsi Center.
Porter’s work ethic and skill set him apart on the ice. But in street clothes, he’s just a normal kid, and that’s what makes him such a special winner.
As the nation’s scoring leader for most of the season, Porter received more media attention than he knew what to do with. Most players would have gotten a big head. If anything, Porter shrunk from the spotlight when it shone brightest.
Most superstars have never met a microphone or a camera they didn’t like. When Porter sees one, you can almost tell he’s thinking of how he can finish the interview as soon as possible.
“It’s kind of an old-school thing, but it’s great to see a young player in today’s era of so much publicity and so much attention just remain humble,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
If there were a Heisman Trophy winner walking around campus, everyone would turn and stare as he passed by on the Diag. The Hobey is college hockey’s Heisman, but for his four years at Michigan, Porter has remained an anonymous face in Ann Arbor. Maybe you’ve sat next to him in class. Chances are you didn’t know it.
More people on this campus could recognize Porter if they saw him today than last week, but he would prefer if you didn’t mention it.
“It’s nice going to class and not being noticed like some of the football players,” Porter said. “They get a lot of attention, and that’s just not for me.”
Porter somehow managed to put together a superhuman season on the ice and remain as normal as anyone else off it.
Even in winning the award, Porter proved that he’s just a college senior – he’ll make mistakes and he’ll apologize for them. He’s a kid like the rest of us.
At the end of his acceptance speech, Porter thanked the crowd and then wished the two teams playing in the championship game good luck. His notes read, “Good luck to BC and ND.”
The only problem: He said, “Good luck to Boston College and North Dakota.” That “ND” actually stood for Notre Dame.
There were a few gasps in the audience, and Porter later recalled the shocked stares his entire team gave him. In a moment, he realized his mistake and corrected himself.
“Notre Dame,” he said loudly. “Sorry, sorry.”
But really, he had nothing to apologize for. Porter’s not superhuman. He’s just like the rest of us – except he happens to be the best college hockey player in the country.
In being quiet and unassuming, all while being the Hobey Baker winner, Porter exemplifies what a student-athlete should be.
Today, too many superstar college athletes set themselves apart from the rest of campus. They drive fancy cars, they show up late to class and everyone stares. They know they’re important, and they act like it.
Porter has never been that way. In interviews, he rarely talks about himself but loves the chance to talk about his teammates. When he walks into class, he quietly sits down and pays attention. No heads turn.
For many Michigan students and fans, their lasting image of Porter will be the staged photo of him holding his Hobey trophy, with a smile forced across his face.
But look at the person next to you in class right now. That should be the picture you see when you think of Porter. The quiet kid going about his business – on and off the ice – doing the best he can every day, and hoping no one will notice.
– Sandals can be reached at email@example.com.