From BYU to the NFL: Porter Ellett


Porter Ellett grew up in Loa, Utah, loving sports, his family and the gospel.

One day, Ellett was helping his father move his 800 sheep to the summer range.

After moving the animals, Ellett was riding in the back of a truck with a few older boys.

There was a motorcycle strapped down in the bed, and 4-year-old Ellett decided to mount the bike while the truck was moving.

As he went to get off the bike, the truck hit a bump in the road. Ellett bounced off the bike and out of the truck, hitting the ground behind the vehicle.

The impact left him without a scalp and severe nerve damage in his right arm. Ellett said his father and cousin gave him a blessing after his father put the scalp back on Ellett’s head. He then woke up, talking about sports.

The family was able to place a phone call from a National Forest outpost, and Ellett was airlifted to Salt Lake City.

At the hospital, Ellett was diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus consists of nerves that send signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand, and the injury was severe enough that it ripped Ellett’s nerves from his spinal cord.

Despite losing his dominant hand, Ellett was young enough to learn how to primarily function with his left arm.

“That’s what I say, (that) I was born right-handed,” he said. “I didn’t really have to learn to write again because when you’re four, you don’t really write much.”

When Ellett was 16, he injured the arm in multiple places during a basketball game and decided to have it amputated.

At Wayne High School, Ellett played four sports and was named the 1A baseball MVP.

“I’ve always been really grateful for the coaches because they gave me a chance,” he said. “I always look back on that and think, ‘Man, they must have been a little bit crazy to let a one-armed kid come out and play.’ It wasn’t just they let me come out and play, they let me do what I wanted. When I young, I wanted to be a catcher, and they let me catch. They let me do everything.”

Ellett also expressed gratitude for his father, saying he took a lot of heat and endured taunts and jeers for being his father.

“You just have to think about everyone that made it possible,” Ellett said.

After high school, Ellett served a mission for the LDS Church in Los Angeles and went to BYU for his undergraduate degree.

He also started teaching at the Provo Missionary Training Center before trying out for the university’s baseball team.

Ellett didn’t make the team but was offered the previous equipment manager’s position.

“At the time, it was a full-ride scholarship, and you got to do everything with the team,” he said.

The previous manager also failed to make the team the first time around, but after the year with the team he tried out again and made the roster.

Ellett had always wanted to work in sports and had excelled in baseball, but he prayed about it and felt he should stay at the MTC.

Across campus, Ellett took economics 110. While he didn’t do so well in the class, he loved it and decided to major in economics.

Near the end of his academic career, Ellett took a law and economics class, needing to finish with an 80 percent or better to have it qualify for his degree.

He ended with a 79 percent, meaning he would have to come back for another semester in the fall.

“When I came back, I got a job with the football team … and I loved it,” Ellett said. “That was kind of the first interaction I had with football because we didn’t have a team at Wayne High. (While) I was there, I fell in love with how football is the ultimate team sport.”

Back at the MTC, Ellett met and helped train Devin Woodhouse.

The two became good friends, sharing a love of football.

Woodhouse wanted to be a strength coach or athletic trainer, and Ellett wanted to become a coach, so the duo made a deal to help each other out.

“If you end up going somewhere and you end up working as a strength coach or a trainer, help me get a coaching position,” Ellett said. “If I end up being a coach, I’m going to hire you as a trainer.”

Time went on after the agreement, during which Ellett met his wife, Carlie, because of an article in the LDS Church’s youth publication, the New Era.

Carlie’s grandfather gave her a copy of the magazine, which featured a story on Ellett. He also told her to tell Carlie to look Ellett up because he had returned from his mission and was attending BYU.

“I ended up knocking on her door collecting fast offerings, so even meeting my wife was set up by a church magazine,” Ellett said.

Ellett and Woodhouse finished working at the MTC and went their separate ways.

Woodhouse married Drew Reid, the daughter of Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, and Ellett went to work for Goldman Sachs.

After a short time, Carlie asked him if he liked what was he doing. Ellett said no; he would rather work in football.

The couple prayed about it, and Ellett decided to go back to school at Baylor to earn a master’s degree in sports management.

After some time in Waco, Texas, Carlie’s brother announced that he was getting married at the Kansas City Temple.

Ellett reached out to Woodhouse, who was working with the Chiefs, to see if they could meet up.

They decided that if Ellett went to the Chiefs’ game, they could get together for a bit after.

“We go to the game and it’s the coldest game in Chiefs history,” Ellett said.

Despite the rough weather, the two couples were able to spend some time together, and they ended up at Coach Reid’s house.

Ellett had wanted to talk to Coach Reid, but his first interaction went a little differently than expected.

“After a while, Coach (Reid) walks into the house, and I’m sitting in his chair,” Ellett said. “So I get up, (and) say, ‘I’m sorry.'”

Adding to the awkwardness of the situation was the Chiefs’ loss on a last-second field goal.

“I (didn’t) know if this (was) a good time to meet coach,” Ellett said.

Porter told Reid he would love to follow him, to learn how to coach and see how he approached his job.

Reid told him to be in contact when the time came for an internship after finishing his degree.

Now Ellett will begin his second NFL season as the senior assistant to the head coach. His responsibilities include working with Reid to organize the day-to-day operations of the team and coordinating communication between Reid and team personnel.

Looking back, Ellett sees ties to BYU and the LDS Church throughout his life, and he’s grateful for them.

Meeting Woodhouse, who is in his second year as a strength and conditioning assistant with the Chiefs, wouldn’t have happened without Ellett serving a mission and later attending BYU.

His career and family life wouldn’t be what they are without his faith.

“Everything has been set up by the church and the gospel,” he said.

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