[Bumped from the sideline. Thanks, CGNC!]
I can only be writing about the one and only Clinton Portis.
The youngest of three boys, he was born September 1, 1981 in Laurel, Mississippi relocating to Gainesville with his mother Rhonell, and her boyfriend before he entered the 7th grade. As far as playing football was concerned, other than out in the yard and church parking lot Clinton describes it this way: "I tried to play pee wee one year but they said I was too young to play. So the following year I went out and ended up punching a little boy in the stomach for messing with my cousin. My momma wouldn’t let me play again so I really didn’t play organized football until high school, in the 9th grade." A naturally gifted athlete, Clinton also ran track in high school running a 40.8 4x100 meter relay. Continuing to excel at track coming out of high school Clinton medaled at state in 5 events, the most allowed – reflecting that "I did alright".
Named the number 10 running back in the SEC by PrepStar as well as the Gainesville Sun player of the year, he whittled his college choices down to Miami, Maryland and Oklahoma State. By the time that Don Soldinger paid him a visit in Gainesville he had already decided to be a Cane. Miami’s running back stable was already full of horses with James Jackson and Najeh Davenport along with the son of Walter "Sweetness" Payton, Jarrett. There is a rumor that Clinton chose Miami because he felt snubbed that Florida did not offer him. There is another rumor that Florida pulled its scholly when he had a fight in high school.
Upon arriving at Miami, the stars aligned and the timing was right as Najeh Davenport suffered a season-ending injury in the Kickoff Classic and James Jackson was hindered by injury as well. The first game that freshman Portis saw significant playing time was against East Carolina, the 4th game of the season. Clinton had 27 carries and ran for 147 yards including a 4 yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Freshman year (1999) was good to Clinton as he finished with five 100+ yard games in six starts, led the team with 838 yards eclipsing the previous record held by James Jackson in 1996 of 595 yards and averaged 83.8 rushing yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry.
Clinton says of his early success at Miami in his interview in 2007 : "I think it was just the right timing. Najeh Davenport went down in the first game of the season and I really think they wanted to red shirt me or move me to defensive back. We had myself, Jarrett Payton, James Jackson, Najeh Davenport and we were all competing. Because of all the people who doubted me and said I can’t do it, I was eager to go out and prove myself and I prevailed." He finished his career with 2,523 total yards/440 carries, an average of 5.7 yards a carry and 20 touchdowns. Having the reputation of talking the talk and taking the competition at Miami seriously he could definitely walk the walk. No one believed it more than he did. Entering the draft after his junior season and having a good pro day, Clinton was certain he would be a top ten pick. When the second round of the draft started and DeShaun Foster was picked by Carolina, Clinton "didn’t watch anymore of the draft. I was actually on the highway going to Tallahassee when I got the phone call telling me I had been drafted." He was the 19th pick in the second round, 51st overall to the Denver Broncos. "I had an unbelievable pro day. But then it was that I was "too cocky" and people questioned my attitude. People didn’t think I would pan out and didn’t think I could take the pounding of being an every-down back in the NFL. A lot of people thought I was going to be too wild."
Telling Coach Shanahan that he would "be rookie of the year that I will give you everything I got" he did exactly that – rookie of the year joining Edgerrin James and Eric Dickerson as Offensive Rookies of the Year to rush for more than 1500 yards. He also went to the Pro Bowl that season.
Clinton the player and perfectionist would beat himself up about having a 1300 yard season, and Clinton the player and competitor would revel when he punished his opponents, like the Kansas City Chiefs when he ran for five touchdowns and broke out the wrestling belt. The rivalry between Kansas City and Denver was hot and Clinton was going up against Priest Holmes. Clinton was ready for the challenge and to make a name for himself as a "big time" back. He turned it on in that game to the point that after the third quarter he did not even play. Not bad for the player no one thought was tough enough to make it in the NFL. Toughness runs in his family -- back in 2005 his mother was accused of punching a Philadelphia Eagles fan in the face.
There is Clinton Portis the competitive athlete and then there is Clinton Portis the comedian – summoning those mythical personalities that appear from time to time with playful characteristics like Dolemite Jenkins and Choo Choo. Or Southeast Jerome pictured here. His on-field accomplishments coupled with his love of comedy spawned a contest to come up with different characters for him. Traded to the Washington Redskins in 2006 where he joined Santana Moss and the late Sean Taylor, the former Canes would take the field together standing back in the tunnel and being the last to take the field. Together, they formed the Three Kings – a charity event in the Washington, D.C. area for underprivileged kids held every year. His locker was next to Sean’s.
Clinton the ever-competitive athlete was outspoken in a 2008 radio interview on the John Thompson Show voicing his displeasure with head coach Jim Zorn after the loss to the Ravens:
"We got a genius for a head coach," said Portis, who was pulled early in the third quarter. "I don't know, I'm sure he on top of things. He's got everything figured "
"You know, London Fletcher played in the game and didn't practice all week," Portis said. "All of the sudden it gets aggravating to (see me) standing on the sideline. It (Zorn's comments) kind of shocked me too, but hey that's what the man said."
At his second Pro Bowl Appearance in 2009 for the Washington Redskins, he seems relaxed in front of the camera. But make no mistake, when it’s time for the game and the fans roar and the lights come on, Clinton wants the ball every carry, every down. He IS a big time ba