Joey Porter (left) and Clark Haggans, reunited in Arizona, work on technique at the Cardinals' recent minicamp.
Once upon a time, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans were roommates on road trips. That had a short shelf life.
“I like to go to sleep, and he doesn’t,” Porter said. “He wants to be up all night. And I snore.”
“Sometimes he snores, and I am done with that,” Haggans said. “I get my own room now and it’s kind of peaceful. You watch what you want and not fight over the TV remote. Joey tried to pull that all the time, because he’s a channel surfer and once I find something, I’m good.”
Sharing a hotel room may be far in the past for the two long-time friends. Playing on the same team isn’t.
For the third time, Porter and Haggans are teammates. They met playing together at Colorado State University. They were each drafted – a year apart – by the Pittsburgh Steelers, spending seven seasons together. And now, after Porter signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals in March, the two 33-year-olds have been reunited in Arizona.
“It’s just kind of crazy how this all came full circle,” Haggans said.
The veterans will bookend as starting outside linebackers in the Cards’ 3-4 alignment. They’ll ostensibly finish their long NFL careers the way they started it, on the same roster.
Haggans got to Colorado State a year after Porter. Haggans was from the southern California city of Torrance; Porter grew up two hours north in Bakersfield. When Haggans first got to Colorado State, he was sure Porter had to be a junior college transfer because of his size.
Porter was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 1999 draft. A year later, Pittsburgh – building up its linebacker corps as it always has – took Haggans in the fifth round. Haggans recalls showing up to minicamp, lugging his gym bag to Three Rivers Stadium -- and Porter was there to welcome him.
“Joey was there saying, ‘Welcome back, I told you you were going to be here,’ ” Haggans said. “Like he knew it all along.”
The two were among the anchors of the Steelers’ linebacking corps. They organized competitions to see what defender would notch the most sacks. When Porter was accidently shot in the rear end in Denver in 2003 (he was standing outside a nightclub when he was randomly struck), Haggans was there, hanging out with Porter to watch the Colorado State-Colorado game. It was Haggans who replaced Porter in the lineup while Porter recovered. They won a Super Bowl together, beating Seattle after the 2005 season.
“That’s always good when you know a guy like that for so long, not just on the field but off the field and everything,” Porter said. “That’s one of my good friends. We’ve been blessed.”
Porter’s reputation precedes him, but his fiery attitude is reserved for opponents. Haggans said he and Porter often traded trash talk once Porter left for the Dolphins and Miami had games against Haggans’ Steelers and Cardinals.
But, added Haggans, “he’s the best teammate I’ve ever had.”
“You always hear about guys, they come in arrogant and come in a different way than they are perceived to be,” Haggans said. “I know when he goes on the field, he is all in. He lays it all out there for his teammates and he embraces everybody like they are his brother – unless you cross him. That’s a whole other story.”
Coach Ken Whisenhunt had a similar sentiment, saying “not only did we think Joey would be a good fit, a lot of our players did.” Whisenhunt, who coached in Pittsburgh for six of the seven seasons Porter and Haggans were Steelers together, said it is the duo’s intensity of their personality and their approach to football that has bonded the two so strongly.
“We compete,” Porter said, “and we’ve been doing it so long, I can bring the best out of him and he can definitely bring the best out of me.”
The Cardinals are counting on it. It’s worked before.
“Reunited again,” Porter said with a smile.