COUNCIL BLUFFS — Terrell Porter has never lost a college football game.
The sophomore linebacker from Detroit is a perfect 21-0 since leaving Berkley High School.
In 2011, he was a second-team NJCAA All-American for Grand Rapids, Mich. The Raiders went 10-0, beat Iowa Western twice and won the Midwest Football Conference championship.
Porter believes GRCC was the best team in the nation. It never had a chance to prove it.
Grand Rapids, ranked third at the end of regular season, wasn’t invited to compete for the national title. It didn’t play in a bowl, and dropped its football program after the season.
Porter transferred to Iowa Western in the spring. This fall, he was the defensive player of the year in the MFC while helping the Reivers to an 11-0 record and the No. 1 national ranking.
After 21 consecutive victories, Porter will finally play for the NJCAA title. Iowa Western meets No. 2 Butler (11-0) for the championship Sunday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
For Porter, the Graphic Edge Bowl is a game that has been two years in the making.
“This game means a lot to me because of that,” he said. “That just makes it more exciting to me. It means a lot to me to just walk out on that field. I feel truly blessed.”
Considering where he was a year ago, Porter has been blessed.
He and his Raider teammates were waiting on a bowl invitation following their perfect season. Instead, they received letters of eviction from a landlord that hadn’t been paid rent.
The Grand Rapids players never received the financial aid they were promised to pay for their housing, Porter said this spring. Most of them left school without collecting any academic credits.
Porter said he’s fortunate to be in the situation that he is now in Council Bluffs.
“I was not thinking like this at all,” he said. “I was thinking about where I was going to stay. I was pretty much homeless. I’m truly blessed to be in the position I am right now.
“Things didn’t work at Grand Rapids. I feel like I made the right choice to come here.”
Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said Porter was concerned upon his arrival about how he’d fit in with the players the Raiders had beaten twice. That didn’t last long.
“He’s really meshed with our guys,” Strohmeier said. “I really had no questions after spring ball. He’s such a quiet guy. He came in and went with the flow. It’s worked out really well.”
Porter immediately filled the hole in the middle of the Reiver defense left by the departure of two-year starter Sam Maresh after last season. The speedy 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has racked up 92 total tackles, even though he never played the full way in multiple Reiver blowouts.
“He’s, without a doubt, our heart and soul,” IWCC defensive coordinator Mike Blackbourn said. “We wouldn’t be able to do some of the things we do defensively without him.
“If I could play him the whole game, he’d probably have close to 200 tackles. He’s special.”
The scary thing, the IWCC coaches said, is that Porter is still learning the position. He was primarily a running back in high school. He had never played linebacker before Grand Rapids.
“I have a lot more confidence in what I’m doing,” Porter said. “When I first started off, I didn’t love the position because I was still stuck on running back. But I love playing linebacker now.”
Blackbourn said Porter seems to bring his best in the biggest games. He had stellar performances in both games against Iowa Western last year. And when Blackbourn told Porter he needed to have a big game in IWCC’s trip to Trinity Valley in Texas this year, he responded by making 17 tackles.
Another great effort is expect this Sunday, Blackbourn said.
“I’m excited to see him play in this game on a big stage,” he said. “He’s prepared very well for this game. He’ll turn it loose, and it’ll be pretty exciting.”
Strohmeier said Porter has the ability to be a special player at the next level. As of now, however, he sits without an NCAA Division I, unlike many of IWCC’s other defensive starters.
The situation at Grand Rapids left Porter behind academically, and he won’t be a mid-year transfer like most of his Reiver teammates. The coach said he should be ready to go by fall.
“It was an unfortunate situation,” Strohmeier said. “With everything that went down in his first semester, he got no credits. Those guys had no place to live for the last so many weeks.
“But I tell a lot of people, ‘If there is one guy to wait for, No. 8 is the one.’ He can be such an impact guy. He’s a dominant football player right now. And he’s only going to get better.”