Portis' protracted path

Posted Aug 9, 2011

Rookie free agent Josh Portis went to three high schools and then three colleges before finally finding his way into the NFL as the No. 3 QB for the Seahawks.

Josh Portis’ path to a spot on the Seahawks’ training camp roster has been the road less traveled. It’s the meandering one filled with one detour after another.

But here he is, the No. 3 quarterback behind starter Tarvaris Jackson and incumbent backup Charlie Whitehurst as the team finishes up its preparation for Thursday night’s nationally televised preseason opener in San Diego against the Chargers.

“It’s been a journey for me,” Portis said. “It’s not a regular three-year, four-year college career. It’s been school, to school, to school. I had obstacles that I overcame. It’s made me a better person and I’m out here enjoying football. I’m playing football.

“So I definitely appreciate the opportunity and the privilege to be out here playing the game of football.”

To truly understand where Portis has come from, you need to flash back not only to the college career that took him from school (Florida), to school (Maryland), to school (California University), but all the way back to his high school days in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Portis started out at Redondo Union High, playing on the junior varsity team for one season. He then transferred to Long Beach Polytechnic High, and then again to William Howard Taft High – where he played two seasons, and well enough to receive offers from Florida, Maryland, Kansas State, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah and Washington.

The choice was Florida, where he played in six games in 2005. Portis then transferred to Maryland, but had to sit out one season because of NCAA rules and then another for violating the university’s honor code. In 2008, he saw little action for the Terrapins and decided to transfer to California U – which is in PA., not CA.

Finally, Portis felt like he had found a school that fit him – and where he fit.

“It was three hours away from Maryland. It was a powerhouse D-II, and they compete real well – they’re pretty good year-in and year-out,” Portis said. “So that’s why I went there.”

In 2009, he passed for a school-record 3,421 yards and 36 touchdowns. But rather than enter the NFL Draft, Portis decided another season at the Division II school in Pennsylvania would be beneficial. Last season, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,651 yards and 33 TDs.

The Seahawks signed Portis as a rookie free agent, and feel fortunate to have landed him.

“I am really, really excited about Josh,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s just been a real pleasant surprise, so we’re real excited about him being the third guy right now.

“He’s an extremely big get for us in free agency.”

Portis, now 24, popped onto Carroll’s recruiting radar while he was coaching at the University of Southern California.

“Josh is a guy that I’ve known for so long, since he was a kid,” Carroll said. “And now to see him after all those travels that he’s been through – whether it was high school or college.”

Carroll could see even more of Portis on Thursday night. Jackson and Whitehurst need to play against the Chargers, but probably not that much. So the well-traveled rookie should get ample time just down the road from where those travels began.

“He’ll play a lot in the San Diego game, so we’re looking forward to seeing him get out on the field,” Carroll said. “He’s just got those normal humps he’s got to get over and it’s going to take some time. But all the raw stuff is there. We’re excited about him.”

Asked about the opener, Portis offered a response that would have made Carroll smile: “I’m just out here competing everyday and I’m blessed to have this opportunity. I’m really having an exciting time in Seattle. It’s my first time being out here.”

He then looked up, spread his arms and added, “It’s beautiful out here. I mean, look at it.”

Getting back to the opener, and the chance it could provide him, Portis said, “When I get out there and they give me the opportunity, I’m definitely going to take advantage of it.”

Just like he has on the practice field. Before Jackson joined practice last Thursday, Portis was getting the backup reps. Now, he’s still getting ample work as the No. 3 QB.

“I’m just taking the reps when I can,” he said. “And when I can, I make the most of them. I’m just having an exciting time right now.”

Carroll admits he wasn’t sure exactly what the Seahawks were getting when they signed Portis on July 26 as part of their 18-player rookie free agent class.

“When he comes to you, you have no idea what he’s going to be like,” Carroll said. “But he’s in command of the offense – as much as he should be at this time. He’s handling the huddle really well, he’s very confident and he’s a really talented kid.

“He’s got great feet, he’s got a great delivery and a very strong arm. And he’s poised about it.”

Enough so that Portis can even joke about his road-less-traveled career.

“Pete Carroll and my coaches always crack on me about that when they see when they see me in the facility,” Portis said with a smile and a laugh. “They’re like, ‘How many schools you went to?’ It’s been a journey for me.”

One that has him playing in the NFL, at last.

“Josh is going to be around for awhile,” Carroll said. “We need to see how he develops, because his talent is there.”

After being there, and there, and even there.

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