Friday, May 17, 2013

Against All Odds: Undrafted Donterrious Porter Determined to Fulfill NFL Dream

For three days, seven rounds and 256 picks, Donterrious Porter desperately hoped to see his name scroll across the TV screen on draft weekend.

But like countless other NFL hopefuls, Porter went undrafted.

As football fans, we are conditioned - and rightly so - to celebrate the collegiate players who are blessed with enough talent and ability to be selected in the draft.

But often overlooked are the hundreds of players who don't receive that life-changing phone call. After all, earning an opportunity to play football at the highest level is a dream that most aspirants will never realize.

Consider this:
  • Only about one in 17 senior high school football players - fewer than six percent - play in college.
  • Those fortunate enough to play collegiate football have an even slimmer chance - about 1.8 percent - to make it to the professional level.

For the strong-willed Porter, however, the end of the draft is not the end of football, but rather the beginning of an arduous uphill battle to make a pro roster.

Hailing from little-known Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, Porter faces the daunting challenge of becoming one the handful of undrafted Division III players to play on Sundays.

It's not an impossible feat.

The Buffalo Bills' Fred Jackson, who played at Coe College - one of Luther College's Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rivals -  went undrafted in 2003. Despite being a two-time IIAC MVP and consensus All-American in 2002, Jackson was ultimately passed on by all 32 NFL teams in the 2003 draft.

The 6-1, 216-pound Fort Worth, Texas, native would go on to play two seasons of indoor football with the Sioux City Bandits in 2004 and 2005, and one season in NFL Europa with the Rhein Fire in 2006.

Jackson's big break finally came when then-Bills general manager Marv Levy - also a Coe College graduate - invited him to training camp in 2006.

The rest is history.

Porter, a 5-9, 193-pound defensive back/return specialist, knows that it will take a similar scenario for him to get the chance he believes he deserves.

He also knows the opportunity of a lifetime isn't likely to just fall into his lap.

For that reason, in addition to working on his skill on the field, Porter is tirelessly championing his own cause off the field. The 23-year-old Waterloo, Iowa, native has been calling and emailing NFL teams, reporters, bloggers and virtually anyone willing to help him get noticed.

One of those emails ended up in my inbox. I was immediately moved by Porter's determination, and felt compelled to share his story, which, in one way or another, we can all relate to.

Ironically, it was track - not football - that led Porter to Luther College. Out of the 16 schools that recruited him out of Waterloo West High School, Luther was the only one that would allow him to both run track and play football.
"I knew if I went to a bigger school, I probably wouldn't have been able to run track, which I knew could help me a lot in football with speed, explosion and flexibility," Porter told me.
He went on to excel as a two-sport athlete for the Norse.

Porter was a member of the 4x100 relay team that clocked the fourth-fastest time in school history. Meanwhile, he was named special teams MVP and all-conference honorable mention in football following the 2010 season.

Porter currently ranks second all-time in Luther history with 1,803 kickoff return yards.

His exploits on the football field ultimately earned him an invitation to the D-II/D-III NAIA Scouting Combine in Philadelphia. It was then that Porter fully realized he had a chance to make the unthinkable jump from the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to the NFL.
"This showed me others believed I had the talent to possibly play at the next level. For me, that's all I was asking for - a shot to show teams what I could do," he said.
Porter, who hoped there was a team that was willing to take a chance on him, will never forget the agonizing experience of watching the draft slowly go by without his name being called.
"At some points I just wanted to break down because I've worked so hard for this and I heard nothing," he recalled.
Despite some interest from NFL scouts, Porter's quest became derailed by an all-too-familiar narrative.
"I think some teams thought I was too small or not strong enough," he told me.
This only fueled his drive, creating the proverbial "chip on the shoulder" attitude typical of so many great athletes.
"After the draft I didn't sit around and wait for a call," Porter said. "If I wasn't on a team's radar I was going to make sure I was by calling them or doing whatever I could to get their attention."
"The only two things that can't be measured on the field is heart, brains and effort. I'll never be short on any of them. I'll keep fighting and clawing to get that opportunity no matter what anyone else says."
So what makes Porter such a special talent on the field?

Although he may not have faced elite competition in college, playing D-III football allowed Porter to use his athleticism to line up at multiple positions - an opportunity not typically available at the hyperspecialized D-1 level.

Porter, who most likens his playing style to the Texans' Brandon Harris, the Giants' Jayron Hosley and the Browns' Joe Haden, believes he could use this multifaceted skill set to help an NFL team in all three phases of the game.
"I bring versatility on the field because I can play on offense, defense and special teams," he said.
"I played running back my first two years (in college) before moving to defense, so I know I can run the ball. I can also play slot receiver because I have great hands and don't shy away from contact. I can play cornerback, strong safety and free safety on defense, and block, tackle and return kicks and punts on special teams."
As legendary baseball player and manager Tommy Lasorda once said, "The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination."

If this is true, then anything is possible for Donterrious Porter.

Check out his highlight tape below:
Additional links
Pro day/Combine in New Jersey
Pro day at the Bears' practice facility
Senior profile tape (senior year only)
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