With all the talk surrounding Colorado State athletics currently and what they would potentially bring to the Big 12, we should also consider the great number of former Rams football stars who are now playing at the next level, in the NFL.
Currently, there are 13 former Rams on NFL rosters, including three Super Bowl champions in Shaquil Barrett, Kapri Bibbs and Ty Sambrailo; a tremendous tight end in the making in Crockett Gillmore; and a top-tier center named Weston Richburg.
But, perhaps the greatest Rams football player to excel in the NFL — Joey Porter — is still helping the program today.
Rewind to March and Colorado State was putting on their annual Pro Day, with scouts on hand from nearly every team in the NFL. And who was there representing the Pittsburgh Steelers? None other than Porter himself.
He wasn’t just there scouting, though. With a long list of linebackers looking to make an impression on the scouts, Porter ran through the drills himself, pushing the kids as he barked out orders. SteveO Michel, Martavius Foster and Cory James (drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round six weeks later) all showed their stuff with Porter pushing them; the player-turned-coach excited about the ability to help.
At CSU’s Indoor Practice Facility, there are giant posters of Rams who’ve gone onto the NFL, and to have Porter there in person, with his poster smiling down on the man in real life, was a bit surreal. Kudos to the Rams for celebrating their history.
Meanwhile, it says a lot when Porter is willing to show up and scout for the Steelers, while Joel Dreessen was also in attendance as a member of the media. Colorado State’s football culture is perhaps stronger than ever as of late, and head coach Mike Bobo is partly responsible.
After the 40s were run, the verticals counted and the individual drills were said and done, there sat Porter, alone in one corner of the IPF, sweaty and breathing hard, with a satisfied look of an athlete who’d just finished a workout.
Porter’s an intense man — a former linebacker who brings that fire for life to the world of coaching — and people left him to himself — for the most part. Luckily, he agreed to a quick interview, and the former superstar linebacker sees the Rams continuing to rise under Bobo.
“It’s been good, man, I can’t complain,” Porter said of life after football and as a coach in the NFL. “Football’s been good, coaching. Transition’s been good. I’ve been blessed to land on some great opportunities.
“Starting here in Fort Collins and to land in Pittsburgh, two great places that I keep close to my heart,” he continued.
Rewind back to 1995 when Sonny Lubick first lured Porter to Fort Fun. In his first two seasons, Porter was on the offensive side of the ball as an H-back. But he transitioned to linebacker as a junior and excelled, being named second-team All-WAC in 1997 as a crucial member of the team who finished 11-2, including a Holiday Bowl victory over Missouri. In 1998, Porter racked up a single-season school record 15 sacks — totaling 22 in only two seasons — and then played both in the East-West Shrine Game as well as the Senior Bowl.
He was selected in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing there from 1999-2006 as a versatile outside linebacker who could rush the quarterback with consistency, bat down passes at the line or intercept them. In 2002, Porter was named an All-Pro, with 88 total tackles, 9.0 sacks, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles to his name. Then, in 2005, he was part of the Steelers’ Super Bowl champion team.
From 2007-2009, Porter played for the Miami Dolphins, recording an incredible, career-high 17.5 sacks in 2008. His 13-year career ended in 2011 after two years with the Arizona Cardinals.
But Porter’s always — as he said — kept Colorado State close to his heart.
In 2005, just before winning the Super Bowl, the star donated $200,000 to the athletics department for a new locker room inside Moby Arena, which the team still uses Monday through Friday pre and post-practices on campus. In 2013, Porter was inducted into the Colorado State Sports Hall of Fame, during the same time he was working under Jim McElwain as a graduate assistant.
That season of coaching experience led to Porter being hired by the Steelers as a coach, where he’s been the last two years.
So, why did he come back to CSU for Pro Day?
“First of all, they’ve got to have somebody you want to come look at,” Porter explained. “CSU has been fortunate enough to get back in a situation where we’re having prospects. And we have some good prospects that we thought were good enough to check out and we did.”
Between Lubick and McElwain was a down time for Colorado State football, but since Coach Mac, the level of talent for the Rams is obvious, as the number of NFL-ready prospects has skyrocketed.
“Both of them had their hands in it,” Porter said of McElwain and current coach Mike Bobo. “I’m pretty sure they [the prospects] learned a lot from both of them. Me knowing Coach Bobo, I know he (has the program) pointed in the right direction.
“I know what state of mind the school was in when Coach Mac left. So, I mean, it’s just going to get better and stronger.
“More games won, get the stadium finished,” Porter continued. “I think everything will be moving in the right direction. I was just happy to come back, do what I can.”
And, without a doubt, Colorado State is happy to have Porter back them, to have him as an ambassador of the program, as the best Ram-turned-pro in the storied history of CSU football.