Second on the Washington Redskins‘ all-time rushing list and someone owner Daniel Snyder said Thursday belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Clinton Portis might be best known for some zany characters he played.
There was Southeast Jerome, Sheriff Gonna Getcha, Coach Janky Spanky and many others. But Thursday afternoon Portis wore a simple blue pinstriped suit as he officially announced his retirement from the NFL with plenty of wit, humor, emotion and stories.
“For myself, man, I think I had a great career. I think I had a great career on and off the field and I was truly blessed,” he said. “It’s closing a chapter in my life that I knew had to end one day. I just never knew when it would. Today is that day.”
Speaking for almost 25 minutes without the aid of a script, Portis choked up before he started speaking and when he talked about his mother, for whom he was able to get a Jaguar and a purple house because “she’ll always been a queen.” Little of what Portis talked about had anything to do with his 6,824 career rushing yards or 47 touchdowns or really anything he did in games.
This was about standing in the back of the tunnel with fellow University of Miami alums Santana Moss and the late Sean Taylor getting ready to run onto the field. This was about a cocky 20-year-old rookie who thought he should’ve been taken by the Denver Broncos in the first round and belonged as the starter and a 30-year-old coming to grips that it was officially over, almost two years after his last game in 2010.
“When you look back, you don’t realize the time of your life or how special it is until you get to a day like today where you get the opportunity to reflect and you get the opportunity to say, ‘I did that,’” Portis said.
During his time with the Redskins from 2004 through 2010, he was plenty popular but took his licks, too.
“For all the positive stuff that went on in my career, even the negativity, the negativity made me a man,” he said. “I think it made me a better person, a better friend, son, brother, player and everything else.”
Able to turn on the charm, Portis shared some introspection and philosophy during this goodbye at Redskins Park. He told stories, like how at first he wondered what Chris Cooley was doing in front of him as a blocker, or how he got inspiration from a random conversation at the ESPY Awards in 2003.
Portis had just earned rookie of the year honors with the Broncos and he was worried about them not paying him properly.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry about money. Play the game the way you play it and have fun. Enjoy it; they’re going to take care of you.’ I didn’t know who it was; they vanished into the sunset,” Portis recalled. “And I had no idea who it was or who this conversation was with. I just knew it was a little short man that was cocky and he had a stance like this and lo and behold, it turned out to be Mr. Snyder.”
Portis called ex-coach Joe Gibbs one of his favorite people of all-time and said after things were done with the Redskins, he couldn’t commit to playing for another team because his heart wasn’t in it.
But it was in Washington, even when he was playing characters during weekly press conferences.
“To me, each character represented how I was feeling at that time. Each character represented what we needed at that moment to get through,” he said. “Each character was unique in his own way and all of them was fun to do.”
Portis, even outside a costume, filled the role of a character.
“Most of the people that judged me don’t know me and the people that know me love me,” he said. “I feel like if the people that judge me would get to know me, they would love me, too.”