Porter A Team, Community Leader
By Haley Hirai
Lauren Porter started playing soccer when she was four years old, just a few blocks away from where she now lives at the University of Utah. Now in her senior season with the Utes, the Salt Lake City native has become a team leader and community role model in her own hometown.
"My family and friends come to every game and I really like it," she said. "It's crazy how fast it went by. It's surreal. It feels like everything I do is the last time I'm going to do it. It makes everything that much more important."
Utah's lone team captain, Porter believes the team's core group of leaders has set an example of "hard work and excitement" in preparing for the team's official debut in the Pac-12 Conference. The community she knows so well is "totally excited" for the Pac-12, with stickers, scarves, and shirts blanketing the campus.
"We are so excited. The Pac-12 is one of the top, if not the top conference in women's soccer. It's a great thing for our program," she said.
Porter doesn't pay attention to talk about Utah coming into the conference as underdogs going into the unknown.
"Our ultimate goal is to make it to the NCAAs and to not just be in the Pac-12, but be a contender in the Pac-12," she said.
Utah head coach Rich Manning shares Porter's enthusiasm. "We're not overwhelmed by the transition; we are super excited for the opportunity," he said.
Porter loves how in the fluid game of soccer, no one player can carry the whole team. Everyone needs each other. Every player is integral. The team is "closer than usual" this season, united in their preparation for the challenges of the new Pac-12 season, according to Manning. They bond over frequent frozen yogurt trips and recently had a field day where they had a kickball and bocce ball tournament.
"Lauren cares about others more than herself. She provides the blueprint for a great teammate, and that's what she is," said Manning. "She's the ultimate teammate. If anyone's having a good day or a bad day, or if people are down because they're hurt, she's the first person to be there and say 'C'mon, you can do it!' Her greatest gift as a leader is being a great teammate."
Porter's selfless attitude and desire to help people even extends outside of her sport. A psychology major with an outstanding academic record, she is a two-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete and three-time MWC Academic All-Conference honoree. Working towards medical school or a master's degree in genetic counseling, Porter's ultimate goal is to be in a job where she can help people.
A volunteer at Primary Children's Hospital, she spends time with overnight patients or kids that are staying in the hospital for long periods of time. The team made a trip to the hospital together in the spring, and Porter kept going back.
"We play with them, and we don't want them to worry about the pain. Our focus is to help them forget about it," she said.
Porter won't soon forget about her recent engagement to Utah linebacker J.J. Williams. Williams told Porter that he was going to take her out to dinner, but they instead hiked up to big granite rocks on the side of a mountain overlooking Salt Lake City and the whole valley where Porter grew up. In front of the picturesque view, they had a picnic of all their favorite foods. He proposed on a Monday night; on Tuesday she went to soccer camp and he started football camp.
"He waited until sunset and it was perfect. He proposed and then we were kind of back in sports mode," she said.
Williams accompanied Porter to soccer practice the next morning. Always the ultimate teammate, Porter wanted them to tell the team together.