Porter gives Ticats more pop

The Tiger-Cats have signed former Eskimos running back Daniel Porter as a back-up to Avon Cobourne....

The Tiger-Cats have signed former Eskimos running back Daniel Porter as a back-up to Avon Cobourne. (PERRY NELSON/QMI Agency)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:06 PM ET

HAMILTON - Daniel Porter is back in the CFL. Even if it is just in that travelling-salesmen, foot-in-the-door manner.

This week, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hired him to a practice roster deal. No promise of future employment.

But, at least he’s in with a chance.

It’s not where the Edmonton Eskimos’ former outstanding rookie of the year figured his football career would be, but ...

Well, it’s better than his alternative career choices; Those would include professional football couch potato, or an exciting future listening to the clap — not of the home crowd — but of thousands of bottles at a soda pop factory.

“I’d pretty much given up hope. With two games left in the schedule you don’t expect anyone to call anymore. I was really just about ready to go out and get a job ... I had one at a Pepsi plant. But, then Hamilton called and this is better than anything nine to five.”

The Ticats finish with two games on the road. And by comparison to what awaited back home in Louisiana, listening to raunchy crowds in hostile stadiums the next few weeks would be a pleasure.

An injury to Terry Grant left the Ticats without an American backup to Avon Cobourne. “This late in the season if something were to happen to us depth-wise, it’s important for us to have someone who has played in the league and understands the protections,” head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said. “He also brings ability and he’s been productive.”

Daniel Porter thought he had this game of football figured out.

The toast of Louisiana Tech, he set a school record his senior season with 1,136 yards rushing.

In 2010, he found a professional home in Edmonton, was the Eskimos outstanding rookie with 603 yards and two touchdowns. This season began with him destined to anchor the Edmonton running game — and then along came Jerome Messam. Porter was 24. Friends and family back home in Baton Rouge might not know where Edmonton was but they did understand that Porter was stamping a place for himself on the football map.

And, then, suddenly in September he was dead to the world of football.

“Woooooo-hoo! Surprised? I didn’t see it coming. I really didn’t,” Porter said Thursday. “I thought I was safe. So when I was released? Shocked. I understand the business side of it but it still hurt. I thought I’d shown enough to get a job.”

Porter, who signed a practice squad deal with Hamilton to back up Cobourne, was a victim of a circumstance of birth and the CFL salary cap.

He was released to make room for linebacker Mark Restelli, who returned to Edmonton after trying out with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

At the start of training camp, it would have been difficult to imagine an Eskimos’ running game without Arkee Whitlock and Porter. But within 10 weeks it all changed. Messam came via a trade and the lure of teaming him in an all-Canadian backfield with Calvin McCarty was too much to resist for head coack Kavis Reed.

“He was the odd man out.” Reed said.

Porter had four 100-yard games with Edmonton. Reed figured he’d get another job. The Eskimos did offer him a spot on their practice roster. But Porter, like Reed, figured another club would pick him up. He declined.

But the telephone never rang with a single offer. “I had a pretty good season and still got released. There’s nobody safe in this business. You’ve always got to watch over your shoulder. I put it up to a lesson learned,” said Porter.

“I worked out. Mostly, I was just sitting at home in Baton Rouge watching TV ... keeping an eye on the games. But, it comes to a point when you don’t expect anything to happen anymore.”

While a mere football fireman this season, Bellefeuille didn’t rule out the 24-year-old Porter sticking around through 2012. “We’re not talking about someone who is in the twilight of his career,” Bellefeuille told reporters, “he still has a lot of football left in him.”

Good thing. Because, like many players out of the American football factory Porter doesn’t have a lot of career options. He’s hoping to help the Ticats’ run for a Grey Cup, maybe show Bellefeuille enough to get invited back to training camp and finally, maybe, blow that Baton Rouge pop stand for good.

“I look at this as a second chance. When you’re sitting at home on your behind ...,” and he paused, “well, my whole life is football. It’s not like I got something else. It’s either this or get something nine to five. All I know is football. I’m just happy to be able to come out here again and get a chance to perform.”


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