Where are they now: Robert Porcher

Robert Porcher did more than prepare himself for his weekly battles in the trenches in the 13 seasons he played on the Detroit Lions' defensive line.

He developed a detailed personal workout plan, and he added to it with the help of such people as teammate Barry Sanders. Porcher also developed a business plan during his playing career he since has expanded since his retirement from football in 2004.

Porcher's multiple pursuits made for a natural transition from football to a full-time career in business.

On the field, Porcher set franchise records that still stand since his retirement midway through the 2004 season. He is No. 1 in sacks in a season with 15 in 1999, and he holds the career record with 95.5.

Porcher had a brainstorm when he retired that was a sign of the career path he had taken away from football.

He was an investor in a popular restaurant in downtown Detroit, and he invited the late William Clay Ford, then owner of the Lions, and his wife and current owner Martha Firestone Ford to dinner.

View photos from the Detroit Lions' 2019 halftime shows at Ford Field.

"About a week later, he and Mrs. Ford and one of their daughters came to dinner," Porcher said in a telephone interview from his home in Charlotte. "The four of us sat and talked and laughed.

"Mr. Ford told me, 'You've done a good job of representing the franchise. I'm proud that you played for us.'

"That summed up my career – to have our owner say those things. That meant a lot. To hear it from him and Mrs. Ford, that was a highlight to sum it up for me."

Porcher, 50, was adaptive and proactive in shaping his career with the Lions, which began when they drafted him in the first round out of South Carolina State in 1992. It was one year after the Lions made the playoffs with a 12-4 record and beat the Cowboys in the playoffs, only to lose to Washington in the NFC Championship.

He did drills on his own to improve his footwork and hand placement, which are critical for a defensive lineman to win battles on the line of scrimmage.

He added to his personal conditioning program from watching Sanders run sprints, and from talking to him about what he did to keep his body fit during the season.

"That came about from watching Barry over the years, especially early on, and how he would run his gassers after practice," Porcher said. "He also told me how he stretched every night for 10 minutes."

What was good enough for Sanders became good enough for Porcher.

"If the best running back, arguably, who ever played the game does extra work, why am I not doing more work on my craft?" Porcher said. "My routine was pretty particular. My drills on the (blocking) bag were moves I knew I would always use. I never got enough work on those things."

View photos of Detroit Lions players and legends building robots with the help of the Robot Garage alongside students at Detroit Lions Academy Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 in Detroit.

Porcher was drafted to play defensive tackle, but he felt he was better suited to play defensive end at 270 pounds.

The arrival of Luther Elliss as a first-round draft pick in 1995 eventually prompted Porcher to talk to head coach Wayne Fontes and his defensive staff about making a position switch. He made a convincing argument that he was better suited to play defensive end than tackle, and that at 305 Elliss would be more effective moving inside to tackle.

The position switch paid off for both. Porcher had 68 sacks and made three Pro Bowls in six seasons from 1996-2001. After being held without a sack as a rookie, Elliss had 15 in 1996-97 combined and made the Pro Bowl in 1999 and 2000 as a tackle.

Porcher arrived in Detroit at a good time. The Lions made the playoffs five times in seven years from 1993-99, had 10-win seasons in 1993 and '95 and won a division title in 1993.

After retirement Porcher spent time briefly in the front office of the Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers, to gauge whether he had an interest in remaining in football at some level. He found out that he preferred the business world.

Porcher still has some interests in Metro Detroit. He is on the board of The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), and he keeps close tabs on the Lions.

"I still do things in Detroit," he said. "I'm passionate about our team. I still am. I wanted to be part of trying to get us back on the right track.

"I have no regrets. The only thing is, at least once I wanted to get us back to the NFC Championship game."

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