Thursday, August 23, 2012
Ex-Redskin Clinton Portis retires
ASHBURN, Va. -- Clinton Portis wore a pink shirt and a blue sports coat instead of a costume. Instead of "Southeast Jerome" or "Bro Sweets," he called himself a "soccer dad."
He lovingly referred to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder as a "little short man" who was "cocky." The former running back shed tears as he reflected on a nine-year NFL career, and his announced retirement at the ripe age of 30.
"I really wasn't expecting to get emotional," said Portis, who had to stop and collect himself several times during a 25-minute speech he gave without the aid of any notes.
Portis officially called it quits Thursday, a mere formality given that he hadn't been in the league since 2010. Nevertheless, the Redskins welcomed him for a final farewell on the eve of his induction as one of the top 80 players in franchise history.
"It's the closing of a chapter in my life," he said.
Portis was a player whose personality was bigger than his statistics, but the statistics were quite good. He rushed for 9,923 yards -- No. 27 all time -- over two seasons with the Denver Broncos and seven with the Redskins. His 6,824 yards in Washington left him second behind Hall of Fame back John Riggins. He was also one of the best in the game in picking up a blitz, an underappreciated talent.
"He blocked and played physical football like no one else," Snyder said.
Yet for all the game-breaking runs and bone-crushing blocks, Portis is probably best remembered for the various characters he created almost every Thursday during the Redskins' run to the playoffs during the 2005 season. He dressed up as "Sheriff Gonna Getcha," "Dolla Bill" and "Inspector Two-Two" among others, always with a clever line or two to help play the part. For instance, "Coach Janky Spanky" wore a headset and a whistle and declared he should be the Redskins' defensive coordinator because: "I took the Boys and Girls Club to the Super Bowl."
So, when word got out this week that Portis was announcing his retirement, the reaction on social media focused on the 2005 season. Never mind that he set the franchise rushing record with 1,516 yards that year or that the Redskins won a playoff game for the only time in the last decade: The Twitter world wanted to know which character was everyone's favorite.
"To me, each character represented how I was feeling at that time," Portis said Thursday. "Each character represented what we needed at that moment in time. Each character was unique in its own way, and all of them were fun to do."
Portis tried doing a character once in 2006 and again in '07, but there was no way he ever was going to recapture the magic of the '05 season. Also, 2007 is when his close friend, safety Sean Taylor, was shot and killed.
"The game was never the same after that," said Portis, who recalled how he and Taylor used to argue about which of them had the hardest hits.
A severe concussion derailed Portis' season in 2009, and a torn groin muscle in 2010 essentially ended his career. He tried out for other teams after the Redskins cut him, but he found no takers.
Portis was outspoken as a player, and that would sometimes get him into trouble. He even said he went afoul of the rules on his first day of practice as a rookie with the Broncos when he stuck a feather in his helmet.
"I could've started the costumes back then," he said with a chuckle.
He was traded to the Redskins for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round draft pick in 2004, a swap that to this day tilts overwhelmingly in the Broncos' favor. Snyder nevertheless called it "a fantastic trade for the Redskins."
Portis paid the owner back with another curious historical take, saying he wanted to play for Washington because it was the only team that didn't pass him over in the 2002 draft. In fact, the Redskins chose Patrick Ramsey late in the first round that year, 19 places ahead of Portis.
Portis was still with the Broncos when he first met Snyder at an ESPY awards ceremony, although Portis didn't know at the time that it was the owner of the Redskins who was approaching and starting a conversation.
"I just knew it was a little short man that was cocky," Portis said. "Lo and behold, it turned out to be Mr. Snyder."
When he was playing, Portis' oft-stated goals included 10,000 yards and overtaking Riggins for the franchise rushing record. He says now that even if he had broken Riggins' mark, "someday someone else would have done it."
Portis therefore said he hopes to be remembered as a "stand-up guy" who left it all on the field. He said his statistics might not be good enough to get him in the Hall of Fame, but he said he'd "definitely" make it if the voters judged him on heart.
He shed tears again when he spoke of his mother, who said long ago that she always wanted a Jaguar and a purple house. Purple reminded her of royalty.
"She's got a Jaguar, she's got a purple house, and she'll still be a queen," Portis said. "And she'll forever be a queen in my eyes."