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La Habra's Porter is 2011 defensive player of the year
Aaron Porter is a very good baseball player. At one time that sport appeared to provide him a sure path to a college scholarship.
But there is something about football that appeals to the La Habra senior.
"I just like to hit people," Porter said.
And hit them, he did. Porter broke his own school record for single-season tackles, recorded 11 1/2 sacks, forced five fumbles and had two interceptions.
It was a dominating season for a dominating linebacker who is the Orange County Register/OCVarsity.com defensive player of the year for the 2011 football season.
La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta saw daily what made Porter such a force.
"Aaron's maybe the best practice player we've had here," Mazzotta said. "He was an endless worker, and that was evident in our games, too. He never took a play off, and in the fourth quarter he was even tougher, faster and more menacing."
Porter, 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, impressed his teammates, like All-County receiver Brett Bartolone, too.
"Aaron does everything he's coached to do," Bartolone said. "He learned to dominate the game."
An injury to Alex Ybarra in La Habra's game against Orange Lutheran left a void at running back, so Mazzotta turned to Porter who had worked out at the position as the Highlanders prepared for the 2011 season.
"I knew I was going to have to step in there," Porter said. "I loved playing running back, because I like scoring."
Porter rushed for 865 yards, averaging 9 yards a carry, and 17 touchdowns. Also a productive receiver coming out of the backfield, Porter had nine receptions for 104 yards and three touchdowns.
Bartolone knew that Porter would be an effective running back.
"He played running back during the spring and during our summer practices, and he looked so fluid there," Bartolone said. "I wasn't surprised at all that he did so well."
Did Porter prefer running back over linebacker?
"No," he said. "Linebacker is more fun."
Porter began playing tackle football as a 7-year-old. It took him a couple years to become adept at the game.
"I became a better player when I was in fifth grade, when I started losing weight," he said. "I was really fat as a little kid. Then I started playing basketball and started losing weight."
Porter had an outstanding junior season for the Highlanders' baseball team this past spring, batting .457 with four home runs and 23 RBIs while compiling a 5-2 pitching record with a 2.02 ERA.
Porter committed to UCLA, for football, months ago, and still plans to be a Bruin now that Jim Mora has replaced Rick Neuheisel as UCLA football head coach. He described himself as a lifelong UCLA fan. But Porter will make some recruiting visits to other Pac-12 campuses.
"I'm still looking at other places just to make sure UCLA is the right place for me," he said. "I'll probably visit both Arizona schools, and Washington and Washington State, too."
Porter was All-County second team last season when he also was the Freeway League's defensive player of the year. For his La Habra career, he accumulated a school-record 388 tackles, 54 tackles for losses and 26 sacks.
Porter said he benefited from guidance by Mazzotta and all of the La Habra coaches, especially one – Tony Porter, Aaron's father.
"My dad's always been there for me," Porter said. "He's always pushed me to go harder, pushed me to get better."
No Orange County defensive player had a better season than Aaron Porter.