“Write your own story.”
It’s the catch phrase that you’ll find at the very end of each of the new football videos on ScoutingOhio.com.
And if you’re a high school junior, or even younger, and you need a little help capturing your own story on video then Mark Porter, the creator of ScoutingOhio.com, will be glad to give you a hand and a captive audience to view it as well.
ScoutingOhio.com is no longer the best kept secret on the Internet. It’s now arguably the best documented source for college football coaches who are looking for high school football prospects to recruit to their respective universities.
Porter, a graduate of Canfield High School and Kent State University, is the person most responsible for the success of this fledging video website on the Internet.
“Write your own story.”
“One of my interns made it up,” Porter said. “Justin Bonanno put it at the end of one of the films and it just kind of made sense because all of these kids are, in some way, trying to write their own story. They’re all trying to go to college and they want to write a great story with a great ending and hopefully it will end that way for them.”
The evolution of his site, over just three football seasons now, is nothing short of amazing.
“It’s evolving faster than we can keep up with it,” Porter said. “I think there are a lot of things that we want to do to make it better but we can’t because it’s evolving so fast. But that’s a great problem to have. So many great things are happening that we can’t keep up with it. That’s a good problem.”
The way Porter tells it, ScoutingOhio.com started with highlights of local high school players in the Youngstown area, namely from Canfield, Mooney, Ursuline, East and Warren G. Harding.
“And then from there it exploded across all of Youngstown, out to Akron and Canton and Cleveland,” Porter said. “Now it’s spread to Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo and all over the state.”
So what actually is ScoutingOhio.com in its purest sense of a website?
“It’s a place where high school football players can post highlight films of themselves, sort of like a Youtube or a MySpace,” Porter said. “But it’s also a centralized location with all of the highlight films of all of the football players in Ohio where a college coach can make into a one-stop shop. They can go to one website and view up to three-thousand videos or three-thousand prospects.”
Porter is the one who makes it easy for both the players and the coaches who ultimately frequent the site.
“My role is like the intermediary,” he said. “I’m the guy who puts the videos on line.”
But he’s become way more than just a guy who just takes raw film of high school players and adds music along with other neat graphics to arrive at a finished product.
“We seem to becoming more of a scouting service now,” Porter said. “It didn’t start out as a scouting service but now I’m starting to be somewhat of a scout where I have to actually go out and find talent to keep the website current and give the college coaches what they want. There has to be some talent on there to bring the coaches in. So whether it’s D-III talent or D-I talent, we have to actually go out and kind of find it.”
So Porter encourages all aspiring high school football players who think they might have a chance to play college football at any level, to send in their video to the website.
“It's for anyone who is looking to go on to college, whether it’s for an academic scholarship to a D-III school or you want to see if you could make it to a Kent State or an Ohio State,” Porter said. “We service all of them really. From top to bottom. Schools from a Notre Dame on down to any remote D-III school use our site.”
The success of the website is almost overwhelming for Porter who gets help with producing some of the videos from a couple of interns that he’s had to bring on board. And his wife Stephanie along with Osvaldo Figueroa shoot countless still shots at games that are then incorporated into some of the player’s videos.
“It’s taken me away from my other job more and more and it’s becoming more of the focus because it’s so exciting and it’s fun,” Porter said. “The future is definitely brighter then I would have ever believed and it’s already surpassed any expectations that I ever had for it. So from here on out…I have no idea.”
Partnering up with a couple of juggernauts of cyberspace have certainly helped attract viewers to ScoutingOhio a lot faster than even he once imagined. Porter has cut an exclusive deal to have his videos introduced and linked to not only one of the premiere high school websites in the country in JJHuddle.com but also to one of the most popular college websites in the nation in Bucknuts.com.
“We’re the main video provider for those two sites,” Porter said. “So if you’re a potential prospect for Ohio State you’re going to get linked to the ESPN/Bucknuts site and if you’re a prospect for any other school except Ohio State then you’ll probably be featured on JJHuddle. With those two sites it just expanded our site immensely with the eyeballs that they have from a huge football following of the Ohio State fans to one of the largest high school sites of its kind in the country in JJHuddle.
“That’s obviously helped put a lot of eyeballs on ScoutingOhio and it kind of helped to complete the picture of taking it from Youngstown to places like Toledo and Columbus and Cincinnati and a whole bunch of smaller places in between.”
And he’s managed to keep the site free along the way.
“The site is free and we never want to charge the kids so what we’ve done is come up with a concept where we can put together a college recruiting package and get the colleges the information that they want very fast and fast enough that they would actually pay for it,” Porter said. “So the colleges will provide a revenue stream to our website where the kids won’t have to. The kids will always be able to send videos in and they’ll always be free but the colleges will pay for contact information and the latest and best videos.”
Those latest and best videos he referred to will become part of annual box set that will be sent out to those colleges that sign up for the service.
“This is like the third year of giving the colleges DVDs and the past two years have been free,” Porter said. “This year will be the first year that we actually charge them for it but I think they’re more than willing to pay because of the success of the last two years’ box sets. And the colleges over those last two years have helped me design this year’s box set. Their feedback, from what I’ve put out in the past, has allowed me to make improvements based on what the college coaches wanted out of the package.”
Porter has regular contact with some of the top college coaches from not only in Ohio but around the country as well.
“Let’s just say that Ohio is a hotbed for the Big Ten and the MAC and I would say you’d be hard-pressed to find a team in either one of those conferences that does not use the site,” Porter said. “Every one of those teams uses the site to different degrees. There’s a lot of guys that use the site that you wouldn’t believe. From Ohio State to Notre Dame on down to Duquesne, Mount Union or Ashland . The site hits on all spectrums.”
The site benefits high school coaches as well.
“It just makes it so much easier for us as high school coaches,” said Aurora head coach Bob Mihalik. “Now instead of sending out separate films for a player, all I have to say is go to ScoutingOhio.com and check out his highlight clips and it makes it so much easier for the job that we have to do as high school coaches.”
The music and the visual effects on the finished product are obviously a bonus.
“That’s the other thing. I give him the clips and he makes them look professional,” said Mihalik referring to Porter and some of the bells and whistles he adds to the video. “And the thing that’s even more impressive is that it’s all at no cost for the kids. There’s so many of these other places out there now and you don’t know who you can trust or what they’re in it for but you know Mark is in it for the right reasons.”
Porter is like a proud father these days. His site has recently been featured in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and on one of the local television channels.
“I can’t say enough that I’m amazed, shocked and lucky to be a part of this,” said Porter who is actually high school coach at the freshman level himself. “We never created this site with any intentions of being anything other than a way to help 15 or 20 kids we were helping that day. And from there it’s just taken on a life of its own.”
And it will continue to evolve as long as Porter has anything to do with it.
“I want to make this the best recruiting site in Ohio where no kids can be missed,” Porter said. “As long as you know about this site or your coach knows about this site, you’re not going to slip through a crack and you’re not going to be not found.”
Anyone can “write your own story” with ScoutingOhio.com.
Porter is obviously doing a pretty good job of it himself.
Mark Porter with Jeff Mills of Youngstown State.
Mark Porter with Pat Narduzzi of Michigan State.
Mark Porter with Mike Stoops of Arizona.
Mark Porter with Bo Pelini of Nebraska.
Mark Porter with Mark Stoops of Arizona.
Mark Porter with Jay Paterno of Penn State.
Mark Porter with D.J. Durkin of Stanford.
Mark Porter with Reno Ferri of Akron.
Mark Porter with Jim Heacock of Ohio State and Brian Polain of Notre Dame.