There are a lot of reasons Porter Ellett getting a shot at coaching in the NFL seemed unlikely. For starters, he’d never played or coached football. Additionally, Porter was involved in an accident when he was 4 years old that ultimately resulted in his right arm being amputated. But it just so happens that Porter was given an opportunity by Andy Reid, the Kansas City Chiefs head coach and a fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to work as senior assistant to the head coach in 2017. He hasn’t looked back since.
But how did he get there? Porter and his wife, Carlie, shared the whole story on this week’s All In podcast but one of the most incredible parts of the story is what didn’t work out on Porter’s way to what did work out in the end.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: You were working and studying at Baylor when you got a call from Andy Reid? Did you know him beforehand? Or how did he find you? How did that call happen?
Porter Ellett: When I was at BYU, I worked at MTC as a teacher and taught Spanish as well for the Spanish-speaking missionaries. And while I was there, I met a really good guy named Devin Woodhouse, and we became really good friends. And we talked a lot about what we wanted to do with our lives and where we wanted to be. And he said that he wanted to work in sports. I also said that I did, and we kind of schemed it up that, “Hey, if you end up somewhere, let’s get there together, let’s work together along the way.” Time went on and things happened. And he started to date this girl and she was awesome and we met her a couple of times and they eventually got married. We didn’t know at the time, we didn’t know for a long time that she was Coach Reid’s daughter, and then eventually he ended up working for the Chiefs.
Carlie has a brother who met a girl from Branson, Missouri. And they were going to get married in the Kansas City Temple. So, we flew up from Texas in the middle of the winter and we went to the wedding and while we were here, I said, “You know, Devin, do you want to meet up?” because he was working for the Chiefs as a strength coach. And I didn’t know at the time how crazy his schedule was so I probably wouldn’t have texted him if I would have known. But I was just like, “hey, do you want to get together?” And he was like, “Well, I don’t really have time. But if you want to come to the game, you can.” So at this point, Carlie’s pregnant, it’s like one of the coldest games in Chiefs history we ended up going to, and they lose on a last-second field goal. So all these things are not good signs for us.
But after the game, we meet Coach Reid’s wife, Tammy, and we sit down and we talk with her for a while. And then Devin finally comes out after the game and he says, “Hey, just follow me. Just come with me.” So we get in our car and we follow him. We ended up at the Reids’ house. And we’re all sitting there talking and eventually Coach Reid shows up … and we’re sitting there talking throughout the night and his daughter, Drew Ann Woodhouse, she starts asking me questions about what I want to do and what I’d studied and all these things, because Devin for like three years had tried to get me a job with the Chiefs by just putting my resume in there. And no one ever would even look at it and no one cared so she was kind of doing this mock interview. And Coach Reid was listening in the whole time. And by the time the night ended, I stood up and walked out, shook his hand, and said, you know, “Coach Reid, I’d pay money, just to follow you around and learn from you. I just want to know how you do the things that you do and how you’ve been so successful.” And he said, “Well, when the season ends, just call Devin and tell him you know that you want an internship or whatever, we can figure out something.”
So season went on, it ended and I texted Devin and I didn’t get a text back for like two days. I thought man, this is weird, like maybe I messed up my timing and all those things. You start thinking like I messed this up, I had an opportunity [and] I kind of screwed up. And I was in a meeting and I had a phone call come in but I couldn’t answer. It was from a Philadelphia area code. I was like I don’t know anybody from Philadelphia. So they left a voicemail and fter the meeting, I picked it up to check it and it was Coach Reid saying, “Porter, I might have an opportunity for you.” And I was like, “Oh, my!” I called him back. And there are plenty of people who want the opportunity to work for him. So he said, “You know, I have a bunch of people I’m considering, I just want you to know that I’m thinking of you and tell me what your situation in life is.” And [I said] I’m in grad school, I’m about to finish, I have a couple of months left.” And he said, “I would need you sooner than later so I don’t know if this will work” and we kind of went back and forth for a few days. And then I kind of was getting nervous. I sent off like a nervous text one night right before I went to bed. And I just said, “Hey Coach Reid, if you hire me, I’ll help you win a Super Bowl.” I’ve talked to him since then about that. I said, “What did you think when I sent that?” And he’s like, “I remember the text, but I don’t really remember what I thought.” And I was like, “Yeah, you probably thought I was an idiot.” And he was like, “Yeah, you know, I probably thought this kid has no clue.” But Coach Reid actually says that Tammy, his wife, really encouraged him to hire me, which I’m grateful for. I’m grateful that she did that. So, he hired me, called me on a Friday night. And I started Sunday morning, with Carlie in Waco like eight months pregnant. And we moved to Kansas City, she found a place and everything for us. She kind of took on all the work
Carlie Ellett: It should be noted that Porter was, out of the finalists for that position, by far the least qualified for that position. And so when Coach Reid said, “Well, I’m gonna pray about this one.” And he told us that the heavens were pointing in our direction, we were just like over the moon excited because there was no reason on paper that Porter should have really gotten that job.
Porter Ellett: I mean, I brought it up to Coach Reid, I said, “I don’t want to come off as a con or anything. Coach, I played baseball and basketball, and I’ve coached both, but my football experience is I was an equipment room attendant at BYU for one semester?” And he said, “Well, you know, I can teach football, you just come with the skills that you have, and we’ll build on it.” And I was like, “If I’m gonna learn football, I want to learn it from you. So thank you, I appreciate it.” And we just hit the ground running. And you know, there’s been a lot of times in my career where I’ve thought, “I don’t know if I can do this,” …[but] I’ve always thought Coach Reid thinks I can do it. So that means I can do it.
Morgan Jones Pearson: Yeah. So when, when he brought you on, what was the role that he was bringing you on at that point?
Porter Ellett: So in the very first phone call we had, he said, “You’d be my assistant, you’d have a desk right outside my office, and you would do everything that I need you to do and everything that the team needs you to do you do.” And he said, “It’ll be a tough job.” And he’s like, “It’s a 2-3 year job because it’s going to be hard on you.” And he said, “You’ll basically be my right-hand man.” And I said, “Well, that’s cool. You know, as long as you’re okay with your right-hand man not having a right hand.” And he laughed and laughed. He said, “Well, you’ll be my left-hand man.” And so he’s called me his left-hand man forever. And now like, half the coaches in the NFL call me “lefty.”
Carlie Ellett: I don’t know if Porter said, but Coach Reid only has one sibling and his brother Reggie only has one arm. So not only does Porter work for the only other member [of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] head coach in the league, but his only brother is also an amputee. So I’m convinced that there’s no other coach that would have given Porter the opportunity. Coach Reid was like the only guy who would have ever even looked at him.
Porter Ellett: And he understands a lot of the things that I do. You know, it’s funny, because there are obvious things where I have to do them differently because whether it’s like cutting paper, there’s a lot of things where it’s like, that’s a two-handed job. So he watches me do it and he’s like, “I saw that trick. That was nice.”
Morgan Jones Pearson: Well, and at this point, Carlie’s thinking, my plan is working out perfect. It worked, Carlie!
Carlie Ellett: I know I couldn’t have orchestrated this. This was divine intervention. Really. I mean, even going back to our time at Baylor, Porter quite literally knocked on every person relating to the football program’s door trying to get in on the ground level to work for the Baylor football team. And every door closed in our face, and I remember feeling like, “Okay, Heavenly Father, you told us to come here. And nothing is going our way and nothing is working out.” And I remember reading the scriptures in the Book of Mormon and feeling that same way about Lehi and Sariah and his family, right? Like nothing really worked out for them either. But in the end, it did. And so I kept holding on to “Something has to give eventually.” Well, then, unfortunately, Baylor football had a bit of a scandal go down and everybody in the entire football program was not only let go but a lot of people were essentially blackballed from the industry. And when Porter was going through the interview process of the Chiefs, one of the questions that the business personnel and Coach Reid himself had was “Were you at all tied to the Baylor football program? What role did you play in that football program?” And we hadn’t because every door had been closed in our faces. And they were like, okay, great, because if you had, we wouldn’t have been able to bring you on board. Everybody in that whole program has essentially been tainted at that point. And so that was one of those life lessons where I was like, okay, the doors closed because Heavenly Father had a different one for you that was even better than you could have ever imagined.