King Me: Clinton Portis
Dog fighting, guys nicknamed Tank going to jail, Pacman Jones making it rain: No wonder the No Fun League promotes the team and not the individual. Enter Clinton Portis. The Washington Redskins running back is frank, controversial and damn funny. Case in point: In 2005, Portis conducted post-practice interviews as a series of original alter egos who had names like Sheriff Gonna Getcha, Coach Janky Spanky and Southeast Jerome. His improv comedy skills may have grabbed attention, but Portis is one of three RBs in NFL history to rush for 1,500 yards three times in his first four years. Those are numbers you can't find in the police blotter.
KING With new NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell taking such strong stands on character, NFL athletes are facing scrutiny. Are you tempted to keep a low profile?
Clinton Portis: As a grown man, I'm gonna continue to say what I wanna say. But if you check my police record, I ain't never caused trouble or done harm. I [got in trouble] when I was 8. They let me go, and my granddaddy made me ride my bike all the way home before I got my whuppin'. My family history ain't squeaky clean, and I've seen negativity, but I keep a clean nose, stay away from trouble and stay positive. If anything goes wrong, though, I'ma be a man first. No matter what people think or say, it's you that gotta look yourself in the mirror.
Given the backlash from your comments regarding Michael Vick after the dog-fighting allegations, do you worry about the perception of black athletes?
Guys gotta make better judgments, myself included. You never know who is for you or against you. There's always gonna be daps and hugs, but all dap is not the dap of happiness. Every handshake is not the handshake of a gentleman.
You've played for some serious coachesâ€”old-school guys like Butch Davis in Miami, Mike Shanahan in Denver and three-time Super Bowl champion Joe Gibbs. What have you learned?
Coach Shanahan was the first person to make me understand that this game is a business. When I won Offensive Rookie of the Year, he told me, "You should be the first person to get a $20 million signing bonus.â€ I settled for $17 million, but next time, I'll be looking in that price range. Coach Davis was also an excellent coach but, at the same time, all about himself. I still remember the speech he gave us at Miami, crying in front of us before he decided a day later to leave for the Cleveland Browns. And Coach Gibbs, the grandfather, [is] the most knowledgeable man I've ever met in my life.
What inspired your litany of characters from 2005?
AndrÃ© 3000. As a kid, that's one person I always admired, 'cause he stepped up and did what he wanted to do, having fun.
You predicted that the Skins would make the NFC Championship game this season. You know you guys went 5-11 last year, right?
That's a bold prediction for me to make, knowing that [the] NFC East is one of the toughest [divisions] in football. But we can't bow down or be afraid of our opponents. We've got more talent than anybody in the NFL.
In college and the pros, you took over for injured veterans. But last year, it was you sitting out hurt watching Ladell Betts rush for 1,154 yards. What's it like to be the one looking over your shoulder?
I've been in competition my whole career, and for me to get hurt on some fluke bullshit in the 2006 preseason, I still averaged 1,000 yards a season.Â I've had one of the best five-year runs in NFL history; flip open the history books and you'll see Eric Dickerson, Gale Sayers, Edgerrin James and myself in the top categories. Getting hurt was an opportunity for me to miss football, which had begun to get boring to me, and to get more haters against me. That's who I do it forâ€”to prove them wrong. This year, I'm back with a vengeance.
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A clip of one of Clinton Portis' Alter-Egos, Dolemite Jenkins
Clinton Portis defends Michael Vick (he later apologized)