Rob Porter had never missed an Eagles varsity football game.
Every Friday night, Porter would sit in the press box, keeping the statistics of each play on the field and watching players he has known since many were in the eighth grade.
However, Friday his seat in the press box sat empty — but everyone knew the seat was still reserved for “Coach Porter.”
Porter died Thursday — a day before the Avon Eagles were to take on Toledo’s St. Francis de Sales Knights in the first playoff game of the 2013 football season.
And while Porter was raised in Wellington and lived in North Ridgeville, his heart belonged to the Eagles of Avon.
Wearing helmets with the decal “RP,” the Eagles played the game of their lives Friday for their “coach.”
At the end of Friday’s game, Avon tweeted “This win is for you Coach Rob Porter.”
This win is for you Coach Rob Porter – Avon wins 38-14 pic.twitter.com/1oIiSHhcJ3
— avoneagles (@avoneagles) November 9, 2013
Avon athletic director Erich Frombach said Porter had been associated with Avon football for 15 years.
“He was the eighth-grade defense coordinator coach and the varsity ‘stat guy’ in the press box,” Frombach said.
And, every Friday was spent with the Eagles.
Head football coach Mike Elder expressed what many people in the football community felt Friday.
“He loved Avon football and Avon football loved him,” Elder said.
To show their love for their coach, a football jersey was made for Porter — in honor of his time and dedication to the team.
It was displayed in the team locker room Friday night.
“He lived for Friday nights,” Frombach said.
But Porter wasn’t just a football coach.
He was so much more in the eyes of those who know him.
He was a son, brother, husband and father.
A friend to Porter since she was 12 years old, LaGrange resident Terri Helbig said he was the most generous, kind, selfless person she has ever met.
“I would often tell people he was the type of guy who would give you the shirt off his (own) kids back to help another out,” Helbig said. “He was a gentle giant who passed all too soon.”
Helbig said she wishes she knew of a way to take all of the positive Facebook comments regarding her friend and bind them into a book for his wife, Tammy, and their children, Bobby and Leo.
“(I hope) they will know what a great man Rob was — his legacy is his generous spirit,” Helbig said. “He was known as ‘Big Rob’ in our house and his stature feigned in comparison to his kind heart.”
Another childhood friend tried to cope Friday as she shared stories of the boy who played football in the backyard with her brothers.
Lorain resident Jennifer Sheets-Holland attended Wellington High School with Porter.
“Everyone knows everyone in Wellington, and he would play football in the backyard together with my brothers,” Sheets-Holland said.
And even though she and Porter went their separate ways after high school, they recently reconnected when he helped her buy a house. Porter was a real estate agent with Howard Hanna of North Olmsted.
“Once you met him, you never forgot him,” Sheets-Holland said.