HUNTINGTON — For all of 2020, Marshall football players couldn’t wait to get back on the field. That included Marshall defensive lineman Owen Porter, a local talent from Spring Valley High School who was eager to start his third camp with the Thundering Herd.
Porter’s season started differently than teammates, though.
Just as the team was getting set to start camp, Porter suffered a toe injury that kept him sidelined three to four weeks.
Each day, Porter did individual drills on the sideline with the training staff while watching his teammates on the defensive line get to take part in drills. As he continuously yelled encouragement to those teammates, a silent fire built inside him to hit the field with a renewed purpose once he got back.
Porter’s return came about 10 days ago, and he has been taking that with him during each day’s practice since his return.
“It was frustrating, but I knew it wasn’t going to take forever,” Porter said of the injury. “There was obviously light at the end of the tunnel. And I was going to play the first game, no matter what. It didn’t matter.”
Porter put added emphasis on the final portion of that statement, which comes as no surprise from a player who refuses to let injuries stop him. That was never more proven than in the final game of his high school career with the Timberwolves when Porter severely injured his elbow in the middle of the state championship against Martinsburg.
When told he was done for the day by trainers, Porter got off the training table and sneaked past coaches onto the field in an attempt to finish out the game alongside his teammates.
That’s the kind of toughness that Marshall head coach Doc Holliday has come to love from Porter.
“Those are the kind of guys you want up front there defensively,” Holliday said. “They get coached hard and it’s a tough position to play, but he’s that kind of guy.”
Porter has always been geared toward doing things in his own style, and that hasn’t changed since coming back from injury. He isn’t worried about being a prototype or fitting some sort of measurable category. Instead, he’s worried about doing what has made him successful — playing the game his way.
While Marshall’s defensive line features plenty of athleticism, Porter brings an old-school nastiness to the group.
“I’m not as athletic as them, I don’t try to be as athletic as them,” Porter said. “I don’t do the same things, the same pass-rush moves as them because they don’t work. I’ve got my own moves and my own work that works for me.
“If I’ve got to be a little meaner and hit a little harder to get my point across, then I’ll do what I’ve got to do.”
While the skill sets of Porter may different from those of Darius Hodge, Koby Cumberlander or Sam Burton, their differences bring them together in a bond that Porter said has grown since the beginning.
“We all came in during the same camp,” Porter said. This is our third year of camp and we just click together because we’ve been together so long. We know each other, we know how we play, we know who’s got a high motor. It’s easier to read each other because we’ve been around so long.”
Porter also didn’t mince words when saying how special that Marshall’s defensive end group can be.
“Koby and Hodge are, in my opinion, first-team all-conference defensive ends,” Porter said. “They can fly. Our defense plays with a motor.”
Cumberlander said that Porter’s work ethic is one that stands out among their teammates.
“Oh man, a very, very talented guy,” Cumberlander said. “I think he brings a lot — a very, very hard worker. He was doing everything he could each and every day in camp to get back, to being healthy and doing what he can to help me and the rest of the D-line out. I’m very excited to see what he can do. He’s worked very hard.”
That work ethic helped Porter get back on the field in time for this weekend’s game against Eastern Kentucky — one in which the Herd finally gets to go against some opposition instead of hitting the same guys day in and day out.
Porter said that aspect may be his favorite thing about being in game week now.
“We’ve been stuck with each other since the beginning of June every single day,” Porter said. “It’s going to feel good.”