IU's football and basketball programs have not produced much positive news over the last two years, but at least some IU alumni in the NFL are representing their alma mater well. First and foremost was Saints cornerback Tracy Porter. Last night, Porter made a mark by creating two turnovers. First, with the Vikings threatening to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, Porter forced a Bernard Berrian fumble that was recovered by the Saints at their own five yard line. Next, Porter took part in a play that will long be remembered in NFL lore, the overtime-forcing interception of Brett Favre's ill-advised pass. Fans who watched Porter at IU cannot be surprised that he has shown such a nose for the ball. In four seasons at IU, Porter intercepted 16 passes. In 2004, when he was a true freshman, Porter didn't appear on the pregame depth chart (Gerry Dinardo didn't want to advertise a freshman corner), but started his first game, against Central Michigan. Against CMU, Porter intercepted two passes and returned one of them 96 yards for a touchdown. In only 16 regular season NFL games in his first two seasons, Porter has five interceptions. Also, Porter is from Port Allen, Louisiana, near Baton Rouge, and it must have been gratifying for a local kid to have played such a prominent role in securing the Saints' first Super Bowl appearance.
While not as prominent in the Saints' win as Porter, former Hoosier WR Courtney Roby had an impact as well. Roby has struggled to break into the Saints' receiving rotation, but he has emerged as a valuable special teamer. He made three ST tackles against Arizona, and against New Orleans, a 61 yard return of the second half's opening kickoff set up a go-ahead touchdown for New Orleans. Now Roby, a graduate of North Central High School in Indianapolis and a former Colt, will face his hometown team in the biggest game of all.
Much of the "Hoosier connection" focus of the media will be on Drew Brees, and not without reason. The former Purdue quarterback has been outstanding since joining the Saints in 2006, both as a quarterback and as a presence in the hurricane-ravaged community. Still, hopefully the two former Hoosiers who helped Brees and the Saints reach the Super Bowl will garner some credit as well. Incidentially, Brees will become the third Purdue quarterback, but the first since Bob Griese in Super Bowl VIII, to start the Super Bowl. Griese's accomplishments for the Dolphins, including the undefeated season, are well-known, but lesser known in that former Hoosier Doug Crusan, a star of IU's 1967 Rose Bowl team, was protecting Griese's blind side in those days. Will either Porter or Roby make as big a play as did Antwaan Randle El, who threw a trick play touchdown pass for the Steelers in Super Bowl XL? As a Colts fan, I hope not, but I'm happy to see them playing in the big game.