Duke City Gladiators coach Dominic Bramante and quarterback Donovan Porterie have been attached at the hip this season as the team makes a charge up the standings in the Champions Indoor Football league.
Tonight the Gladiators (3-3) shoot to climb over .500 for the first time this season when they face the Salina Liberty (0-6) in a CIF game between non-division foes at Tingley Coliseum.
Porterie, a four-year starter for the University of New Mexico from 2006-09, leads the 14-team pro league with 35 TD passes. His 258 passing yards a game also is tops as he has helped to propel the Gladiators from a 0-2 start.
“Donovan is a polished professional and we’re lucky to have him,” Bramante said.
Three years ago, Bramante probably was ready to say much the same when he was in charge of the now-defunct Rio Rancho-based New Mexico Stars and Porterie had a signed deal to play for the club. But Porterie had a change of heart just before the season and jumped to the Spokane (Wash.) Shock of the top-tier Arena Football League.
So much for contracts. The guilt set in immediately.
“A lot, because I had worked out with the guys for a solid month. It was very hard for me to leave,” Porterie, 29, said before a recent Duke City practice that began before the sun came up. “It was a situation in which I was trying to get the best contract where I was at in my career. But I really wanted to play with the guys. There were a lot more from my UNM team back then.”
Apparently there are no hard feelings between coach and quarterback.
“No, we’ve seen each other a few times since ’14 happened and we were always very cordial to each other,” Bramante said. “We sat down (this offseason) and we had a great conversation. What he literally said to me was, ‘Coach, the way I look at it, I owe you a ring.’ He had me right there.”
Porterie, 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, has been all over the map since leaving UNM as an undrafted free agent.
After getting a look from the NFL’s Detroit Lions in the spring/summer of 2010, he wound up playing in Alaska for the Fairbanks Grizzlies of the Indoor Football League in 2011. It was quite the culture shock for the native of Port Arthur, Texas.
“Oh, man, when I got there it was actually a blizzard and like negative 45 degrees,” he said. “It was one of the coldest places on Earth.”
The next year after his Fairbanks coach, Robert Fuller, accepted the head coaching job with the Green Bay Blizzard, also of the IFL, Porterie followed and played for the squad for three seasons (2012-13, 2015). Last year he was with the league’s Iowa Barnstormers.
Now he’s back in Albuquerque, where he also has an account managing job with Verizon.
“It’s been a blast so far,” he said. “Things haven’t always gone the way we wanted (with three losses), but it’s been fun playing with the guys.
“And knowledge-wise now, I’m way more mature in the position than before. I feel I’m way more polished footwork-wise and with my sharpness.”
Bramante adds: “We like his calmness under pressure, his leadership and professionalism. He’s just got to protect the ball better.” Porterie has thrown eight interceptions.
After this season, Porterie still holds out hope there’s a place for him in the NFL.
“I feel like in my career I haven’t been beat up, no concussions, no broken bones,” he said. “I had a knee surgery, but outside of that I’ve been pretty healthy.”
TOUGH ROAD AHEAD: After facing the winless Liberty, the Gladiators will have back-to-back bye weeks before closing their season with a three-game road trip and then two home games – all against teams that have a cumulative record of 14-2 and are 3-0 vs. Duke City.