HYATTSVILLE – Fairmont State University Head Coach Jason Woodman knew what kind of player Marcus Porter was but could not imagine his future outside of college football. Doubts crept in after the then-sophomore punched a player during a skirmish and was kicked out of the program during the 2014 regular-season opener against West Virginia State University.
Required to miss the first half of the following game against Concord University, the young linebacker busted out of the locker room at halftime. In just two-quarters of work, Porter led the team in solo (6) and total tackles (8), convincing Woodman that the former Gwynn Park High School standout could excel after college.
“I used to talk a lot of trash when I played,” Porter said. “I would go into games, telling people who I am and just talk a lot of trash. My coaches would tell me that if you are playing good, everyone will know who you are. So there was no need validate myself. That’s when I realize that I needed to mature.”
“We kind of still talk about it to this day,” Woodman said. “That was the time that opened his eyes up, and he flipped the switch…He’s such a competitor that it beat him up (to miss the first half) but he started to figure things out from that point forward.”
It was a turning point for Porter, who did not think about playing professional football despite having a successful high school career. Now, with four successful years in college football under his belt, the Accokeek native is ready for his new life test after being signed to the Green Bay Packers as an unrestricted free agent on April 28.
For Porter, a six-foot, 225-pound linebacker, the post-college football experience has been a mentally taxing one. Having workouts with the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens, added with conversations with several teams, placed Porter to be picked in the later rounds of the NFL Draft or to signed as a free agent afterward.
While other players around the country tuned to watch the final day of the Draft, Porter stayed away. He attended a University of the District of Columbia men's lacrosse game, went to a family barbecue and took a nap. All to distract himself from receiving the call.
Minutes after the final pick was selected, Porter got word that the Packers were signing him. Adulation consumed him, and once it was made official, Porter received so many texts and social media notifications that he silenced his phone.
“People and friends that I have not talked to in a (long time) called me up to congratulate me,” Porter said. “This is just a very overwhelming experience...I definitely dreamed of it but never thought it would be a reality.”
Last season, the Packers defense ranked 11th, with opponents only scoring an average of 24 points per game. Understanding the competition of making a gameday roster for the Packers will be tough, but Porter said he is ready to show his football prowess and a willingness to adapt to his new environment quickly.
As a high school athlete, Porter excelled offensively and defensively during his time at Gwynn Park said Head Coach Danny Hayes. In his senior year, he made 21 receptions for 370 yards and scored five touchdowns as a tight end. Meanwhile, on defense, he recorded 185 total tackles, including five sacks, during their undefeated regular season run in 2013.
His play earned him his opportunity with Fairmont State University, a Division II school competing in Mountain East Conference (MEC). With his shorter six-foot frame and arriving into campus out of shape for his freshman season, changes needed to be made in his diet and his training style for him to excel better on defense, Woodman said.
Those changes quickly appeared during his breakout sophomore season. After the season opener incident, Porter emerged as the team’s most dependable defender, Woodman said. His 72 tackles, combined with his four interceptions, impressed many inside and outside the conference.
Once Porter heard from his coaching staff and teammates that his abilities could lead him to the NFL, he continued his new training regimen, building off his successful run.
“I knew I had to do extra if I wanted to go up to the next level,” Porter said. “I choose to go to a small school, and people are always going to you. I am small for my position, so I knew people were going to say something about my size, so I had to be sharp on coverages and be at the top of my game all the time.”
In his senior year, Porter, no longer in need of validation, embraced a leadership role and became one of the most hardworking tacklers in the conference. His 56 total tackles ranked sixth in the MEC while his team’s defense was ranked best in the conference. After leading the Falcons in tackles for the fourth year in a row, Porter was named honorable mention in the 2017 Don Hansen NCAA Division II All-America Team.
“Marcus has done more for this program in the past four years than anybody I can remember,” Woodman said. “From where this program was when he came here and where it is now, he is a major cornerstone of what is happening here. It is not just his playing as he’s a leader off the field. He’s been able to understand what we want from our program here really.”
Porter’s future as a football player is seen as a shining example of hard work paying off for players all over the county, Hayes said. At a recent Yellow Jackets offseason workout session, Porter visited the team, and was given advice and pointers on how to continue excelling on and off the field. That success will now hopefully lead him to attack offenses on an NFL field soon.
“(Begin signed) was the only thing that I was stressing about,” Porter said. “And now, it feels like a weight has been lifted off. Now, I can just play football and be myself, and that's a good feeling.”