“Ya’ll got it going on over there in football,” are the first words spoken by Larry Porter after his initial greeting on the phone.
The former University of Memphis football coach is now the running backs coach at North Carolina. His second year with the Tar Heels has him busy, but he keeps tabs on the program he played for in the early 1990s and coached from 2010-2011 before being fired after going 3-21.
“I’m fired up,” he says. “I’m proud of the product they are putting on the field. [Memphis coach] Justin [Fuente] has done a great job. The kids are taking what coach is telling them to the field. The community is supporting him. When you put a good product on the field people want to show up.”
Like Porter, Fuente, also struggled out of the gate, going 7-17, during his first two seasons at Memphis. With two more years at the helm, Fuente has the program moving in the right direction. The Tigers finished 10-3, including a bowl win, in 2014. The 2015 squad won eight games before dropping their first to Navy last weekend.
When asked if he feels he could have made significant improvements given more time, Porter let it be known he does not deal in “what ifs.”
“Here’s what I do know,” he says. “Memphis has moved on and I have moved on. I think the focus should be on what is going on now. Me and how I feel is irrelevant at this particular time. I’m excited the university has accomplished a lot since I left. It is a performance-based position and I understand that. But I will always be a Tiger.”
Since leaving Memphis, Porter has also been a Sun Devil at Arizona State and a Longhorn at Texas before landing in Chapel Hill. He was running backs at each stop.
In 2013, Porter’s name surfaced in a Sports Illustrated report that alleged he paid players to sign with Oklahoma State while serving as the team’s running backs coach from 2002 to 2004. “There was no wrongdoing on my part,” says Porter. “I believe the NCAA did a full investigation and there were no issues.”
Although the football program was put on probation for not following its drug-testing policy and recruitment guidelines, the allegation of payments to players was unfounded, according to the NCAA and OSU’s independent review.
As for his job at UNC, Porter says he’s happy because he’s still doing what he loves to do. “I always enjoy having an influence on young men,” says Porter. “(North Carolina) presents a new situation. And it’s a nice place to live.”
Still, Porter’s goal is to once again head a program of his own. “Absolutely,” he says. “It’s what drives you. It’s what should drive every coach. You do your job and you let your work speak for you.”
But he’s in no rush to move on. “My life has always been about God’s plan,” he says. “I’ve been blessed and in great situations. So we will see what happens.”
Porter’s Tar Heels are ranked 17th in the nation by AP. The team is preparing for a home game against the Miami Hurricanes. But Porter is well aware of the Tigers’ upcoming conference battle with Houston. Before hanging up the phone he has two final words: “Go Tigers!”