Big Ten Medal of Honor Q&A: Jeff Porter (2007)
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April 29, 2014

Big Ten Medal of Honor 100th Anniversary
Michigan's Big Ten Medal of Honor Recipients

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, the Michigan Athletic Department will be profiling some distinguished student-athlete alumni who received this prestigious academic and athletic honor.

Jeff Porter was a three-time All-American and NCAA indoor champion in the 60-meter hurdles. He won the national title at the 2007 indoor championships after finishing fourth in the event the prior year. Porter also placed fourth in the 110m hurdles at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championships. He was the 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year during the indoor season after winning the 60m hurdles and later in his career claimed conference outdoor titles in the 110m hurdles as a junior and senior (2006-07). Porter went on to qualify for the USA Olympic Team at the 2012 Games held in London, reaching the semifinals of the 110m hurdles. He graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in kinesiology.

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Jeff Porter

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We have some really good, successful people that have received this award. I'm honored to be a member of this group.
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Jeff Porter
Q
What is your best/favorite memory from your time at Michigan?
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The best moment that I experienced as a student-athlete wasn't winning the national title in the hurdles. In December of 2006 I found out my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He showed up to the Big Ten Championships at Penn State my senior year as a surprise to support me and watch as I took home the championship. That was a very special moment for me as I could share it with my father. He was sick -- I didn't realize how sick he was -- and when I saw him there I realized how much the cancer had worn on his body in such a short time. I didn't expect him to look the way that he did, but when he showed up I recognized it was an overwhelming show of support. Winning the national championship was fun, but winning that Big Ten title was special because it was one of the last races my dad saw me run. That is one of the most memorable moments as a student-athlete.
 
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What was the best lesson that you learned at Michigan?
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The best lesson that I learned was to network. Learn from those around you and those who did it before you. Learn the mistakes they made and learn where they succeeded and how to improve on those successes.
 
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How did your Michigan experience prepare you for life at college?
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The University of Michigan is one of those places where you can encounter a variety of people and circumstances that can prepare you for the future. It causes you to extend outside your comfort zone and deal with people and situations that you never thought that you could. It teaches you lessons and you learn time management, how to better balance all that life throws at you -- how to network, how to communicate, how to adjust to a variety of environments. Those lessons prepared me for the life that I'm living now.

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What is the most common thought that goes through your mind when looking back at your time at Michigan?
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I had a great time at the University of Michigan. Despite the ups and downs, I had a great experience at Michigan. I had great teammates, a really good coaching staff, and I met my wife (track star Tiffany Ofili) here. It was a phenomenal time at Michigan. I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world. It made me the person that I am today.
 
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What did it mean to receive the Big Ten Medal of Honor?
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It was a surprise to me. My academic advisor, Steve Connelly, told me that I was awarded this honor and I didn't really understand it at first. The more that I did research on the award it was apparent to me how prestigious this award really was. I was quite perplexed. I felt that I was just another guy trying to be the best student-athlete that I possibly could and the committee selected me. I was taken aback because they saw more potential in me than I actually saw in myself. I remember when I received the award, it was at the academic awards banquet, and I received the medal and looked out and said, "Wow, this is an amazing honor and setting to be recognized for my academic and athletic achievement." I had a very difficult senior year in terms of injuries and the personal stuff involving my father. The fact that I came out on top earning this Medal of Honor was nothing short of amazing.
 
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Does the Big Ten Medal of Honor have a greater meaning today than it did when you received it?
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It's one of those awards that has great significance to me. There's only one male and one female that receive it every year at Michigan. That is exclusive company. This award is the leader of the Leaders and Best, and to be honored in this manner means a great deal to me. I have my Big Ten Medal of Honor framed and that award means more to me than a lot of the awards that I've received in my college and professional career. When I look at the company that I'm in, that's elite company, especially when you look at those who came before me, and then my wife won it a couple of years after I did, so that's always special. We have some really good, successful people that have received this award. I'm honored to be a member of this group.
 
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What does it mean to be the only husband and wife to win the Big Ten Medal of Honor at Michigan?
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That is something that is unique and impressive. It makes our house even more competitive than it already is but it's very special. Tiffany and I can say we've done things that no one else has ever done. That's the mark that we want to leave on Michigan, Michigan Track and Field, and the world. When we are done, we want to be able to say that we left our mark and helped others reach their goals.

• Previous Q&A: Jason Botterill