Back in the day, Kenston’s George Sell was a center snapping the pigskin to quarterback Jack Porter during second-grade football.
Now rising seniors for the Bombers, the duo is getting ready to return to the gridiron on the heels of a Division III state championship campaign, when Sell, now a three-star left tackle, and Porter, a two-time first-team all-Ohio running back, motored an offense that gained 429.3 yards and scored 40.3 points per game.
After more than a decade as teammates, Sell and Porter are fixing to continue their journey beyond high school.
Six-foot-5, 275-pound Sell gave Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, his verbal commitment on a full scholarship offer June 2, and 5-foot-10, 185-pound Porter committed as a preferred walk-on a couple weeks later.
“I called to see how his camp went, because we’ve been playing together since second grade,” Sell said. “I was the center in second grade, and he was the quarterback at the time. And I called him, and I was like, ‘How’d it go?’ And he was like, ‘Dude, I got a preferred walk-on.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh. That’s insane. We have the potential to play together from second grade all the way through college and graduate.’”
While Sell and Porter both intend to be Demon Deacons in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2020, the standout gridders conducted their college searches separately and independently.
“It’s just awesome to have someone I’ve known all my life, and I’ll make friends, of course, but I know I’ll have a friend from the start,” Porter said. “It’s just a little bit surreal that this is our senior year coming up.
“I’m definitely going to miss everything about Bainbridge and Auburn, but I’m excited to keep going. And we still have this season. There will be nothing like playing with my best friends since I was in second grade.”
In 25 games the past two seasons, Porter had 655 carries for 3,866 yards, or 5.9 yards per carry, for 54 touchdowns. Not to mention, he also collected 22 passes for 281 yards with a touchdown.
During his camp at Wake Forest, Porter turned heads with his receiving abilities during one-on-one non-contact drills.
“I’m not necessarily going anywhere to be any one position,” he said. “I’m just trying to help a team out in any way I can. So, that’s kind of a big thing of those non-contact camps; the one-on-ones with running backs and linebackers are kind of how they would be run from the slot positions. So, you see a lot of catching, and I caught the ball well.”
Sell and his fellow offensive linemen, including 2019 graduates Alex Robarge and Brandon Schroeder, as well as rising senior guards Justin Schroeder and Jeremiah Jones, protected quarterback Jon Tomcufcik well enough in 2018 that the rising senior gunslinger was only intercepted four times and sacked twice on 296 passing attempts.
And although Sell started at right tackle his sophomore season, before switching to protect Tomcufcik’s blind side last year, he said coaches who recruited him took notice in his versatility.
“They just saw that I could play center, guard or tackle, because I still have the potential to grow,” Sell said. “And I’m still tall enough to the point where I could play guard or center, because Wake Forest, when they recruited me, they have three positions they recruit – outside guys, inside guys or swing, which you could play both, which that’s what they recruited me as.”
After Kenston finished its 2018 campaign at 14-1, with a 33-7 whooping of Canfield in the region championship, a 40-7 butt-kicking of Eastmoor Academy in the state semifinals and a 42-6 downright drubbing of Archbishop Alter in the title game, Sell said the recruiting process took off for him.
When he committed to head coach Dave Clawson and the Demon Deacons at the beginning of June, Sell said he had 29 offers on the table, including the likes of Duke, Michigan State, Iowa State and Purdue in his top five.
He also had power-five conference offers from Boston College, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Louisville and Vanderbilt, not to mention a host of Mid-American Conference and Ivy League schools.
“So, basically, Wake Forest was the first power-five to offer me a scholarship,” Sell said. “I went down there for the first time before they offered me. And when I went down there the first time, everything was so nice, and all the coaches were nice. I liked how everything was run down there.”
Sell visited three times before he committed, getting the opportunity to watch a spring practice and spend time with other recruits on an overnight stay.
“I only saw one practice, but it was a good practice, very efficient – it was very similar to our practices,” he said. “I just could relate to it. I think it’s going to be a lot easier of a transition than from maybe different practice styles. And it was a welcoming-family feel where I felt like I’m going to be comfortable and taken care of.”
With a highly selective 30 percent acceptance rate, Wake Forest is known for its academic standards and small class sizes of a one-to-11 faculty-to-student ratio.
While Sell said he wants to study engineering or possibly the finance end of business, Porter said he’s going to pursue a degree in business.
“That’s what I love about it,” Porter said. “They have such high-end academics there. So, just education and football is perfect. The coaches there are just extremely nice. They did a great job explaining their school to me. And their facilities, they’re getting a brand-new field house, new locker rooms, and all the buildings are the same brick. It all looks very nice.”
Although Porter doesn’t have a scholarship offer, that doesn’t mean he can’t prove himself and get financial support down the road.
Despite being one of the best running backs in Ohio, Porter said his recruiting process didn’t quite take off in the fashion that Sell’s did.
“It never really took off,” he said. “I’ve always been one of those guys that you have to get to camp to get any type of offer, because I don’t pass the look test or whatever they call it. So, I was just told, go down to Wake’s camp on May 31 and turn heads.”
According to 247 Sports, the top running back recruit out of Ohio’s class of 2020 is Archbishop Hoban 5-foot-11, 220-pounder DeaMonte Trayanum, who had 17 carries for 82 yards with one touchdown in the Knights’ fourth straight state championship last fall.
“It’s not frustrating,” Porter said about not passing the look test. “I think it’s kind of like a bigger chip on my shoulder just to prove that height and weight is not all that matters. At Wake, their quarterback was 5-foot-10, I think. So, they understand the football aspect of it, not just being able to run a fast 40 (yards) and vertical jump and this and that.”
Porter, who was also looking at Duke and a couple Ivy League programs, said he’s happy to get the stresses of his college search over with before the start of his senior season.
Sell said his ultimate goal is to play in the NFL, but he’s been working toward a collegiate career for quite some time.
“I mean, I’ve been preparing since freshman year,” he said about lifting twice a day during the offseason. “I’d just be doubling down, running track too. So, this summer I’ve been doing that, and I just keep stepping it up, because you’ve got to raise the bar. So, I knew from when I was a kid that I was going to be good in high school and then college.”
Both Sell and Porter said their parents were supportive of whatever college decision they made and that they were grateful to their coaches at Kenston for preparing them to have the opportunity to play at the next level.
That said, they still have business to attend to this fall.
“It’s kind of scary to think that I’m a senior, you know, I’ve been playing forever,” Sell said. “Like, I never thought this time would come, but it’s actually here, and it’s scary that I’ve got one more shot. All I know is that, when we play this year, we’re going to take one play at a time, one quarter, one practice, one game, you know, we just have to keep grinding. So, we have higher expectations than we did last year.”