In a loss for sports fans who enjoyed players who were funny, entertaining, and a little crazy, former Washington Redskins running back and ex-Hurricanes star Clinton Portis is calling it a career today. After nine seasons in the NFL, seven in the nation's Capitol, Portis found himself with no job offers and decided to retire.
As a pro football player, Portis racked up his fair share of awards and records on the field. Off the field, however, he was even more must-see, mostly as the creator of close to a dozen weird personalities he'd spring on the media out of nowhere. Seriously, the man came up with characters named Coach Janky Spanky, Sheriff Gonna Getcha, and the simple yet powerful Choo Choo. Even John Waters at his most bizarre would have a tough time keeping up.
Portis burst onto the scene as a freshman at the University of Miami in 1999, and in three years with the Canes, he led the team in rushing twice. His best season was his final one: In 2001, he helped lead Miami to a national title, rushing for 1,200 yards and ten scores. He was a second-round draft pick for the Denver Broncos in 2002 and spent two years in the Mile High City before being traded to the Redskins for Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey. Though he couldn't help send the Redskins to a Super Bowl, he set a franchise record in rushing yards for a single season (1,516 in 2005) and was second on the team's all-time list with 6,284 yards on the ground.
But football fans will most fondly remember Portis for his kookiness and predilection for saying just about anything. In 2005, during the Redskins' playoff run, Portis began debuting different characters to take questions during Thursday news conferences. Some of the winners:
- Coach Janky Spanky, who had large fake ears and drew nonsensical plays on a clipboard;
- Sheriff Gonna Getcha -- with curly black hair, glasses with eyes drawn on, and a Led Zeppelin T-shirt with a sheriff's badge pinned to it -- who promised to investigate the disappearance of an earlier Portis character, Southeast Jerome; and
- Kid Bro Sweets, who wore oversize sunglasses and a curly yellow wig while handing out candy to boost morale.
He even trotted out some new costumes in 2008 for the NFL Network, including Prime Minister Yah Mon, a Jamaican wizard with dreadlocks and big ears who wanted to run for president as an independent.
He would've had Riptide's vote, that's for sure.
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But Portis wasn't just a man who would throw on a ridiculous costume, invent a completely nonsensical alter ego, and then stay in character as Redskins beatwriters asked him inane questions about the week's opponent.
He was an outspoken guy who would call out coaches and teammates when he felt like it, and was guaranteed to say something interesting every time a microphone or recorder was put in front of him. Even his departure from the Redskins was a fun time. After Washington cut him in February 2011, he thanked the team and its fans while taking part in a striptease for a charity event in the city.
Portis hasn't indicated any plans for a future after football, but a man goofy enough to improvise a character for weeks on end shouldn't have much trouble finding work on television.