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My first day of training camp as a Redskins beat reporter was July 30, 2009. By time the sun went down, I had learned the No. 1 rule on the beat: If Clinton Portis’ mouth is moving, your recorder better be in front of it.
Portis showed up for the season with his hair dyed blond. Media surrounded him after the first practice to ask about his relationship with coach Jim Zorn, whom he had publicly skewered at the end of the previous season.
C.P., as usual, spoke honestly and from his heart. He opened up about how he took exception to the curfew Zorn imposed before the meaningless season finale against San Francisco three days after Christmas.
And then came this gem when someone asked about the hair:
“I just felt like doing something different,” he said that day. “From what I hear, now I’m gay. I don’t think there’s a woman in the United States of America that would say I’m gay. I don’t hang around men. I don’t live a private life. There are constantly people around me. I did it because it was something I felt like doing. At the moment, it was like: Oh, I want to do something weird and different. I dyed my hair blond.”
Covering this guy is gonna be fun, I thought. He was such a good and ignitable quote that we reporters were handcuffed to our radios for his Tuesday morning show. Well, that part wasn’t so fun.
But that was just part of covering such a personality. Portis did what he wanted for as long as he was good enough to do so.
My colleague Grant Paulsen from 106.7 The Fan said it well today: Portis could be a distraction or even a negative influence on Monday through Saturday, but the Redskins were damn glad to have him on Sundays. Portis deeply cared about winning; it’s just that he didn’t always show it in the most productive way off the field.
My favorite Portis play of all time was not a run. It was a 55-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Santana Moss from Mark Brunell in Washington’s 36-30 overtime victory over Jacksonville in 2006.
Portis ran 25 yards downfield to throw a block at full speed for Moss. Then he got up, sprinted another 20 yards and secured Moss’ path to the end zone with another block.
I found video of it on YouTube, beginning at the 0:15 second mark of this clip. The aerial view begins at 0:30, so watch that, too, and keep an eye on Portis out of the backfield. His effort was world class. He dealt/absorbed two hits that knocked him to the ground, but he helped his team get six points. It was a sacrifice that showed his commitment.
That play and others like it are why I agreed with Portis today during his retirement press conference when he was asked about his chances of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“If they could add my biggest attribute, which was heart, I would definitely be in there,” he said.
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