Clinton Portis, the character who wore goofy costumes. Clinton Portis, the man not afraid to speak his mind in media settings.
Portis is remembered both ways.
He’s also known as the second-leading rusher in Redskins history with 6,824 yards, 648 behind John Riggins.
Last season, the Redskins honored Portis for that feat. He was chosen as one of the 10 names added to the Redskins’ 80 Greatest team announced in conjunction with the franchise’s 80th anniversary.
“To be standing out here on the field with legends such as Art Monk and Darrell Green and all the other guys,” he said at the Redskins’ alumni reunion last year at FedExField. “When I think Mark Rypien, having a conversation with him last night, I’m thinking like, `Wow, I used to watch this man.’
“I don’t feel like I’m supposed to be here at age 31. You look around and you see everybody else, Deacon Jones on the field and all these guys who were before you. It feels like it’s before my time, but it’s an honor.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Portis came to Washington in a blockbuster trade. Shortly after starting his second stint as Redskins coach in January 2004, Joe Gibbs dealt four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and a No. 2 draft pick to the Broncos for Portis, who had rushed for more than 1,500 yards in both 2002 and 2003, his first two seasons.
Which team got the better of that trade is open to debate. While Portis ran for nearly 7,000 yards and went to two Pro Bowls in D.C., Bailey is still one of the league’s marquee cornerbacks, having earned seven more Pro Bowl invitations. He’s a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
Plus, the Broncos used the No. 2 pick on Tatum Bell, who rushed for 921 yards in 2005 and 1,025 in 2006.
Portis’ coach in Denver, Mike Shanahan, is a master at drafting gems at running back (i.e.,
Portis praised Shanahan for vowing to “evaluate” his players when the Redskins fell to 3-6 last season in hopes of seeing who would be on the team for “years to come.” The Redskins proceeded to win seven straight games and capture the NFC East.
“Coach Shanahan is a great coach, and he knows how to handle guys in the locker room,” Portis said after the Redskins’ 28-18 season-ending win over the Cowboys at FedExField. “He’ll never be throwing guys under the bus or exposing guys. It’s really just putting the responsibility on them and letting them respond. Once you put guys under the microscope, guys respond, and I think the team came together.”
Morris rushed for 200 yards against the Cowboys to amass 1,613 for the season. That total broke the Redskins’ all-time mark of 1,516 set by Portis in 2005.
Portis said he was happy for Morris, a sixth-round draft pick now in his second season.
“Just to see somebody so humble, so talented, somebody so driven, you really wouldn’t want a better guy to do it,” Portis said. “For Alfred Morris to do it and do it with all class, it was great, you root for guys like that.”
That was Morris’ most spectacular performance in 2012. What about Portis’ most memorable moments during his seven years in D.C.?
“There isn’t one that I can pinpoint,” he said. “It’s so many memories of things that happened that people didn’t really get the opportunity to see or focus on and think that was big. When I think about it, just some of the blocks downfield, the Jacksonville game. Just making plays and doing it as a team.
“Somebody brings up a play, and you can remember that play exactly how it went. The run against the Cowboys, 38-yard touchdown (2006), or the run against the Eagles with the spin move in the hole (2005). So there’s a lot of situations that you can think of and reflect on.”
Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. His web site is redskinshistorian.com. Check out his Facebook Friend and Fan pages and follow him on Twitter.