Will to overcome

Determined athlete doesn't let results of accident keep him from succeeding

CEDAR CITY, Utah — When Wayne (Utah) High School's Porter Ellett walks onto the basketball court, it is immediately apparent that he only has one arm. As the game unfolds, it is further apparent that he is competitive and talented despite his disability.

Speaking after a Region 15 tournament game Feb. 23 at Cedar City High School, Porter said he has been blessed and that faith and attitude have enabled him to overcome his challenge.

A junior, he plays point guard on the basketball court. Dribbling? No problem. Though he can't change hands, he keeps the ball away from defenders. Passing? He guides the ball accurately with one-handed flips to teammates. Defense? One arm intensely waving at an opponent proves to be as troublesome as two. Shooting? In a flash, he brings the ball to his chest, then balances it in his left hand and accurately lets fly from 3-point range.

It frustrates Porter, an Eagle Scout and a priest in the Loa Ward, Loa Utah Stake, that other people see him as different. But he said he feels blessed because he's always had to battle to prove himself, "and I love it."

When he was 4 years old, he was thrown from the bed of a pickup truck. His skull was fractured, from which he recovered, and all the nerves were torn in his right arm, permanently disabling it. Though the arm was useless, he actually kept it for many years; his parents — Mary and Jan — left the decision up to him, according to his mother.

Finally, after suffering various afflictions, including fractures and burns, he chose to have the arm surgically removed last October. But not until he led the Wayne Badgers to the 1-A baseball state championship as a pitcher and first baseman, earning MVP honors. He taught himself to catch the ball with his mitt, then toss it in the air and drop the mitt, catch the ball in his now bare hand and make the play. Again, he welcomes challenges, such as a player on second base in one game who tried to score on a slow roller to Porter at first base. Porter said he fielded the ball and threw the runner out at home.

A blessing, in Porter's mind, is that he was just a child when he lost use of his arm. Early in his development as a right hander, he just switched over and continued the development as a lefty. "I don't remember having to relearn anything," he said.

Another blessing, according to Porter's mother, is good friends who are united with him in sports and other activities as well as in personal standards. The way they treat him makes him forget he has a disability, she said.

More motivation is added by five sisters, Porter said. "They're all pretty good athletes, so I've always felt I've got to live up to that."

They also remind him that he needs to serve a mission, something he's always wanted to do anyway. Following his mission, his goal is to go to college.

In the meantime, he leads the typical life of a teenage boy — enjoying sports, hanging out with good friends, going hunting and riding motorcycles. And, his parents noted, he carries his share of chores on the family farm.

Summing up his attitude, Porter said, "Being normal wouldn't be any fun."

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