CP Porter: Fashionably Overcoming
by Brent Harris
Director of Sports Information
The death of his father in 2010 and a terrible injury on the football field in 2012 nearly ended his college career, but CP Porter refocused and turned trauma into triumph, not to mention “street wear for the believer, the innovator, and the ambitious.”
Wabash was trouncing Hanover 62-0 in the fourth quarter of the 2013 football season opener when the Little Giant fans let out a roar like you’d never expect at such a blowout. Nearly 4,000 people were on their feet cheering not just another Wabash touchdown, but the remarkable return of senior running back CP Porter.
Eleven months earlier during a game against Wooster, the crowd’s reaction at Hollett Little Giant Stadium had been very different—a loud groan followed by an eerie silence. Porter had slammed his knee into the turf as he was tackled. The contact with the ground fractured and dislocated his left hip.
A doctor treating Porter at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis told Head Football Coach Eric Raeburn that the injury was similar to one a racecar driver might suffer during impact with a wall. He hoped that Porter would be able to walk without a severe limp.
That wasn’t good enough for CP Porter.
“CP kept apologizing for fumbling the football,” Raeburn recalls. “He told me he would be playing again next season. I kept telling him, ‘Let’s just take things slowly and make certain you can walk before we worry about running with the football again.’”
Watch WTHR-TVs story on CP below
For Porter, there is no taking it slowly.
He has faced adversity throughout his Wabash career. He came to Wabash in the fall of 2007, playing in 11 games for the Little Giants while rushing for 465 yards and four TDs, but personal issues prevented his return to the College the next season. Then, in the summer of 2010, his father, Garland, died.
Eventually Porter enrolled at Ball State University, but he found the pull of Wabash reaching out to him.
“I was still friends on Facebook with teammates from Wabash,” Porter says. “Those guys kept in touch, asked how I was doing and how my family was holding up after the death of my father. It taught me a lot about what it means to be part of the Wabash College
family. I knew I had to find a way to return.”
He found that way in the spring of 2012, transferring back to Wabash and preparing for classes and the fall football season.
“When CP lost his father, I think he lost his base and his center,” Dean of Students Mike Raters ’85 says. “He needed that male influence in his life. No one can replace a father, but I think CP found bits and pieces in people here at Wabash—coaches, professors, administrators, and students—who began to fill that void. The opportunity to compete drew him back, yes, but he also needed to get ‘home.’ Wabash became a sense of home for him.”
“I came back to Wabash to really refocus my life,” Porter says. “Being passionate about something provides a drive to succeed, and being surrounded by people here that have that same passion in other areas makes you want to keep up with them. How can you not be successful?”
Porter played in seven games in 2012, scoring three TDs and rushing for 324 yards before the hip injury ended his season. But even then, Porter kept his focus.
“At the College’s entrepreneur summit, I heard about the SEED [Supporting Entrepreneurial Enrichment and Development] grant. For a while I’d had this idea to create my own clothing line, but I really didn’t have the means to get it going. I saw this was my opportunity.”
Porter presented his business plan to Schroeder Career Center Director Scott Crawford and Associate Director James Jeffries.
“I gave them some projected figures and tried to explain my overall vision. I must have done a pretty good job, because I was able to get the grant in just a few days.”
Porter spent that summer in Knoxville, TN, working with his brother, Garland Jr., while continuing to his rehab his hip. Garland, an accomplished track-and-field athlete, set up his younger brother at the Knoxville Performance Lab and Jonny Long’s Training Academy.
He also continued to work on his business plan.
“I was away from my friends, so a lot of my downtime was spent working on this,” Porter explains. “By August I had everything in place. I got my wholesaler’s license through American Apparel. My first item was produced just as football camp began.”
If the SEED grant provided Porter with an opportunity, much of his drive comes from his family.
“My mother is a German immigrant, and I watched her work her way from the bottom to get to where she is today,” he says. “She’s definitely my biggest motivation. And I want to be able to give back and support her. My family has instilled the mentality to be the best at everything you do. My brother has challenged me since I was a kid not to be better, but to be the best. I try to go about that in every aspect of my life. It really does push me to succeed.”
As he prepared for his senior year at Wabash, Porter realized he’d have to push himself harder than ever. His financial aid was scheduled to run out in May 2014 with no opportunity to renew, and Porter still needed 12 classes to graduate.
Anticipating the challenge, he had met with Dean Raters the previous spring to work out a plan he was confident he could complete.
Raters wasn’t so sure.
“We knew CP would have to take six courses per semester to graduate, and he had an academic record that indicated that he probably couldn’t do that,” Raters says. “He almost certainly could not do that if he played football at the same time, and—oh, by the way—why would he even want to play football when the injury put him even further behind?
“As I explained all that to him, I could see his teeth start to grind and his eyes squint with look of ‘OK, I get it, but I’ll show you.’
“Every single time I saw him last fall out on campus, on the sideline at football games, getting on the bus for a game, at an event at the MXI, he would show me that fire in his eyes. It was a look that said, ‘Dean Raters, I’m on it.’”
Porter found success in the classroom and returned to form on the football field. After injuries to starters Tyler Holmes and Mason Zurek depleted the Little Giants’ backfield, Porter carried part of the load. He played in nine games and ran for three TDs, including his first since the hip injury in the game against Hanover. The final carry of his career came in the Little Giants’ 38-21 victory in the 120th Monon Bell Classic.
“When you add in football, it’s like CP was taking seven classes,” Raters says. “Throw in his entrepreneurial enterprises, and now you’re looking at eight time-consuming items. But the busier CP is, the better he is. His grades last semester were his best ever, despite his ‘overload’ in the fall.”
At the same time, Porter’s clothing business is taking off. He describes his Kite & Key clothing line as “street wear not just for the dreamer, but the believer, the innovator, and the ambitious.
“Keeping up with the business has really been tricky,” Porter says. “But when you’re passionate about something, you find time to do it. Even when I’m lying in bed I’m thinking—about what to do next or how I should go about something—until I fall asleep.”
Porter will complete his final six classes in the spring to graduate in May. Raters looks forward to that moment.
“I will probably sit up a little straighter and smile a little wider to see CP achieve that success,” Raters says. “Watching him graduate will be an honor for all of us. That’s the way he is, too. When he walks across the stage, he will do that on behalf of everyone who has helped him get there.“
Porter’s clothing line continues to grow, but that’s not necessarily his calling.
“I’m interested in so many things—I don’t want to limit myself to one,” Porter says. “I know a lot of people say that to be a professional, you have to do one thing, get your 10,000 hours in. I challenge that—I really want to be a Leonardo da Vinci type of person.”
“It will be fun to watch his future,” Raters said. “CP is going to be one of those guys who is going to be successful. Success may not mean being a multimillionaire. But he’s going to be successful in anything he decides to do because he’ll also be successful in helping others, in helping make his community better, in being an example to others.
“He’ll be fun to watch, just like he was fun to watch when he was running across the football field.”
Porter’s company, Kite & Key Co. (formerly Made Fbrx) can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @kiteandkeyco.
Editor’s Note: In February, Porter was named one of four Brady Comeback Scholarship Award winners for 2014 by the Methodist Sports Medicine Research and Education Foundation.