CALIFORNIA, Pa. | The road into this tiny burg in coal country greets unsuspecting visitors with a sharp turn.
And then another.
Finally, there’s an encounter with the stoplight in town - a Kwik Fill gas station and Red Apple Food Store sturdily perched at the intersection and a Rite Aid situated catty-corner. It’s a slice of Main Street U.S.A., but it’s far from the easiest place to find.
After countless career twists to match the bending roads around his new digs, former Maryland quarterback Josh Portis finally found California. And California, home to a Division II power, is glad he found it.
It’s no College Park. It’s surely no Gainesville, Fla.
But it’s a chance to play - which he has sought throughout a nomadic career.
“I feel like it’s been a journey for me,” Portis said this month after completing practice and finishing lunch on a sweltering day. “Couple high schools, couple colleges. I feel like - I don’t know. It’s weird how life works.”
Especially for Portis. At every stop, doubt never existed about his raw talent. The speed of a tailback. The potent arm. The freakish athleticism, in a large enough quantity to prompt Maryland to tailor a specific package for him last season.
All those possibilities and… what? In the past four years, he has run for 370 yards and produced a 7-for-14 passing line for 85 yards.
Hardly overwhelming stuff for Portis, who landed in southwestern Pennsylvania less than two weeks after the Terrapins’ Humanitarian Bowl victory. He walked at Maryland’s graduation in December, wrapped up his undergraduate degree in American studies in the spring and is poised to finally play extensively.
And, naturally, wow yet another school with his tantalizing, intoxicating brand of athleticism.
“If he has the kind of success we think he can gave here, he’s going to get a chance to play for somebody at the next level - whether it’s in Canada or the NFL - because his skill sets are excellent,” California coach John Luckhardt said.
No looking back
This wouldn’t be the first time a coaching staff salivated over Portis’ possibilities. No less than Urban Meyer recruited him at Utah, then signed him in 2005 upon jumping to Florida.
Less than a year later, he was at Maryland to begin a circuitous three-year stint.View Entire Story
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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