Bull strong Clinton Portis ran like a mack truck and finished his nine-year NFL career with 9,923 rushing yards.
Portis holds eighteen Denver Broncos franchise records. He’s also one of the 80 Greatest Washington Redskins.
It turns out this prolific running back’s love for the gridiron waned in the aftermath of Sean Taylor’s shocking murder in 2007.
Portis revered the great Sean Taylor that much.
Despite Portis’ greatness on the football field, he struggled with the lingering effects of concussions and various legal battles during his post-retirement years.
Nonetheless, Clinton Portis will go down in history as one of the best running backs in Broncos and Washington Football Team franchise histories.
Clinton Earl Portis was born to parents Leonard and Rhonnel Pearson in Laurel, MS on September 1, 1981.
He has an older brother Gary.
Portis’ stepfather Clint worked as a truck driver. On the other hand, his mother Rhonnel Hearn-Pearson worked at a nursing home and earned $25,000 annually.
Happy Mother's Day to my mother & the rest of the strong women that raise individuals & villages 💐💐😘 pic.twitter.com/DjwWVEw283
— Clinton Portis (@TheRealC_Portis) May 8, 2016
Despite the meager family income, Clinton Portis always ate home-cooked meals, wore stylish clothing, and played with the latest gadgets during his formative years.
When Portis was in high school, he sold weed so could earn some extra money, per SI.com’s Brian Burnsed.
Portis had a massive attack of conscience a few hours later.
He eventually exchanged the $130 he earned for $27 another weed buyer had in his wallet.
Portis couldn’t help but think of his mother’s tears whenever she spoke on the phone with his older brother Gary, who served an 11-year prison sentence for selling drugs.
Clinton Portis attended Gainesville High School in Florida.
He played wide receiver, running back, and defensive back for the Gainesville Purple Hurricanes under coach Ed Janes.
Portis was also a member of the track team.
He established records of 6’6″ in the high jump and 22’8″ in the long jump.
As a senior defensive back for the Purple Hurricanes, Portis had 79 tackles and two interceptions.
He started at running back for Janes for three seasons.
Portis was a wide receiver when he entered his sophomore season at Gainesville High. He had never played running back.
However, the Purple Hurricanes needed another running back to complement their two-back system.
Janes tapped Portis to play running back on a whim.
Portis didn’t disappoint, despite his scrawny frame, he ran like he had been doing it for years. His uncanny field vision helped him not only gain yardage, but also leave defenders eating his dust, per The Washington Post’s Nunyo Demasio (via NBC News).
Janes told Demasio in a 2004 telephone interview Portis was unstoppable at running back:
“We couldn’t stop him. He’d stick his head in there and run through. That shocked us.”
“He was making those runs where he’d get more out of them than we thought we could. it didn’t take a genius to put him at running back.”
Portis established a school record with 2,036 rushing yards during his senior campaign.
He piled up on the accolades at the end of his high school football career.
Portis earned honorable All-American honors from USA TODAY. He also became a First-Team All-State, All-Region, and All-Area selection in 1998.
PrepStar Magazine named Portis the No. 10 running back in the SEC region that year. The Gainesville Sun also named Portis it’s Player of the Year.
Clinton Portis narrowed down his college choices to the Miami Hurricanes, Maryland Terrapins, and Oklahoma State Cowboys.
When Miami Hurricanes running backs coach Don Solinger went to Gainesville High School to recruit Portis, the latter was sitting on a chair with his feet propped on a table in Janes’ office.
Portis promptly tossed his highlight tape to Solinger.
“He said, ‘Take a look at this,'” Solinger told Demasio some six years later. “You don’t have anybody like this.”
He ultimately decided to remain in-state and join a Miami Hurricanes juggernaut for his college football career.
College Days With The Miami Hurricanes
Clinton Portis majored in business at the University of Miami.
Portis was also a member of the Miami Hurricanes track and field squad. He even won the state title in the 4 x 400-meter relay.
Portis stormed out of the gate with a scintillating 147-yard performance against the East Carolina Pirates in his first start as a true freshman in September 1999.
He went on to set a program freshman record with five 100-yard-plus rushing games in the 1999 NCAA season.
Portis’ 73-yard touchdown run in the 2000 Gator Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets was the longest run from scrimmage in the bowl’s history.
The Sporting News named Portis a Freshman All-American in 1999.
Despite playing as a reserve in his sophomore season, Portis scored the game-winning 35-yard touchdown against the Hurricanes’ in-state nemesis, the Florida Gators, in the 2001 Sugar Bowl.
— Clinton Portis (@TheRealC_Portis) August 24, 2019
Portis became Miami’s starting running back in the 2001 NCAA campaign.
The 2001 Miami Hurricanes squad was loaded – it featured future NFL stars Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, Sean Taylor, Jeremy Shockey, Ed Reed, Kellen Winslow II, and Vince Wilfork.
Portis exceeded expectations and had 1,304 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 240 carries that year.
The Hurricanes capped off a memorable undefeated 12-0 season with a resounding 37-14 romp over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 2002 Rose Bowl.
Portis had 104 rushing yards and a 39-yard touchdown in the victory to help clinch MIami’s fifth national title.
He earned First-Team All-Big East honors at the end of the 2001 NCAA campaign.
Portis decided to forego his senior season at Miami and declare for the 2002 NFL Draft.
He concluded his three-year stint with the Hurricanes with 2,523 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 440 carries.
Clinton Portis would go on to become one of the greatest players in Washington Redskins franchise history.
Pro Football Career
The Denver Broncos made Clinton Portis the 51st overall selection of the 2002 NFL Draft.
Portis didn’t waste any time – he proved he belonged in the National Football League the moment he played his first down.
He had more than 3,000 rushing yards and a combined 29 touchdowns in his first two pro seasons in the Mile High City.
Portis became the youngest player to score four touchdowns in a game.
The twenty-one-year-old running back pulled off the gaudy feat in a 31-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on December 12, 2002.
To nobody’s surprise, Clinton Portis earned 2002 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
The following year, lightning struck twice for Portis against the Chiefs.
The 22-year-old phenom became the youngest player to score five touchdowns in a game in a 45-27 rout of the Chiefs on December 7, 2003.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) April 28, 2020
Portis wore a fake jewel-encrusted heavyweight title belt his rapper friend Pastor Troy gave him on the sideline.
He flaunted the belt while he flexed his muscles for a national television audience. It was his way of declaring himself the best running back in the league.
Clinton Portis backed it up with a career-high 1,591 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in the 2003 NFL season.
It came as no surprise he earned his first Pro Bowl berth at the end of that season.
The Broncos traded Portis to the then-Washington Redksins for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round draft choice in 2004 which turned out to be running back Tatum Bell.
Denver averaged 10 wins in Portis’ two seasons from 2002 to 2003. The Broncos never made it past the AFC Wild Card Round during that span.
As of 2017, Portis held 17 Broncos franchise records, including most rushing yards as a rookie (1,508), rushing touchdowns in a game (five), and average rushing yards per game (106.9).
Portis signed an eight-year, $50.5 million deal with the Redskins. It included $17 million in bonuses.
It was the largest deal for a running back in NFL history at the time, per SI.com.
Twenty-two-year-old Clinton Portis wasn’t a stickler for frugality.
When he signed his new deal with Washington, he splurged like there was no tomorrow.
He purchased many houses and even flaunted them on MTV’s “Cribs” and NFL Network.
“Portis was on a different level,” teammate and wide receiver Santana Moss told SI.com. “He didn’t think about tomorrow.”
While Portis was extravagant, he also spent money for his family members and even random strangers.
Portis helped build a house for his maternal grandparents. He also bought a house and a Jaguar for his mother in Gainesville, FL.
Portis also supported extended family members in the Mississippi area and held enormous picnics in Florida and Virginia.
When Clinton Portis first donned Redskins Burgundy and Gold in 2004, he was on the verge of becoming an elite running back.
The 5’11”, 219-lb. Portis did most of his damage on the field by running straight up the middle. He was a violent runner who wasn’t afraid to absorb and inflict punishment. Demasio even compared Portis to a Mack truck.
Former Redskins tight end Walter Rasby, who blocked for Stephen Davis, Barry Sanders, and Deuce McAllister, compared Portis to former NBA point guards Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson because of his excellent peripheral vision, per The Washington Post:
“It’s something you’ve either got or you don’t. He makes you look good. All you have to do is really hold your block.”
“If you get in contact with your man for one or two seconds, Clinton is gone. As a blocker, that’s the kind of guy you appreciate.”
When Demasio asked Portis what his best asset as a running back was, the latter didn’t hesitate.
“It’s heart,” Portis told The Washington Post while pointing toward his.
In the spring of 2007, Portis claimed dog fighting was more prevalent than people think.
“I know a lot of back roads that have the dog fighting if you want to go see it,” Portis told ESPN.
Portis made the comment during the height of the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal. The former issued a statement on the Redskins’ official website (via ESPN) he neither condoned nor participated in dog fighting.
For some running backs such as New York Giants great Tiki Barber, they retired when they were completely dinged up and couldn’t take the beatings on the gridiron anymore.
However, it was a different story for Clinton Portis.
According to Burnsed, Portis grew disenchanted with football when he just turned twenty-six years old at the beginning of the 2007 NFL campaign.
Sean Taylor was a presence, even on the practice field.
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) November 27, 2016
The turning point in Portis’ career occurred in early September 2007 when team owner Daniel Snyder knocked on his hotel room door in Miami and broke the devastating news that Redskins safety Sean Taylor – whom he revered to high heavens – was murdered.
Taylor’s death coincided with the losses of Portis’ various friends and family members.
Clinton Portis was no longer the fun-loving, wig- and fake teeth-wearing character in the Washington Redskins locker room.
In Burnsed’s words, “football became a vocation” for the Washington running back.
Portis turned to sex to numb the emotional wounds and scars he had been dealing with in the aftermath of Taylor’s death.
He told SI.com in 2017 he went on extravagant trips overseas, sometimes with three or four women he barely knew.
“It was empty,” Portis told Burnsed.
Portis divulged to FOX Sports’ Shannon Sharpe (via Yahoo! Sports’ Matt Weyrich) in September 2021 when the Redskins removed Sean Taylor’s locker three years after his murder, his love for football disappeared:
“Once they moved Sean T.’s locker out of the locker room, my love for the game disappeared.”
“There was plenty of space in the locker room. You could’ve built a new locker. You didn’t have to remove Sean Taylor’s locker.”
The move apparently drove Portis to retire from football.
RIP to the great Sean Taylor🙏🏽
Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, and Sean used to take a shot of henny before games 🐐pic.twitter.com/IdZwjzSBdr
— Football Is Life (@FootbaIl_Tweets) November 27, 2019
Despite Portis’ disenchantment with the gridiron, he had 1,487 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in the 2008 NFL season.
He earned his second Pro Bowl nod at the end of that year.
Concussions as well as abdomen and groin injuries slowed Portis down significantly in the 2009 and 2010 NFL seasons.
Washington released Clinton Portis on February 28, 2011.
He announced his retirement from the gridiron on August 21, 2012.
Redskins owner and close friend Daniel Snyder was present during Portis’ retirement press conference.
Portis, who wore a dark-blue blazer and diamond stud earrings, thought about the time when a nursing assistant told his son she would purchase a Jaguar and purple house when she became rich.
“She’s got a Jaguar. She’s got a purple house,” Portis told SI.com in reference to his mother Rhonnel Hearn-Pearson. “And she’ll forever be a queen in my eyes.”
Clinton Portis finished his NFL career with 9,923 rushing yards and 75 touchdowns on 2,230 carries.
Portis recorded six seasons of at least 1,262 rushing yards in his nine-year NFL career. His rushing career yardage total currently ranks him 32nd in league history.
Clinton Portis Highlights | Washington Redskins pic.twitter.com/33GuOUkl3h
— Washington Window (@WasWindow) September 7, 2021
The Redskins averaged seven wins in his seven seasons in the nation’s capital. They never made it past the AFC Divisional Round with him in tow.
As Clinton Portis’ career wound down, his financial troubles grew.
Portis and his lawyers filed lawsuits against Rubin between 2011 and 2013. Rubin allegedly convinced him to invest $1 million in a southern Alabama casino that shut down the same year he announced his retirement, per Burnsed.
One of the lawsuits maintain Rubin and Co. forged Portis’ signature so they could open a BankAtlantic account. They even had the audacity to make unauthorized withdrawals amounting to roughly $3.1 million from the said account.
For his part, Brahmbhatt convinced Portis and other NFL players to invest with Success Trade Securities. Almost $14 million of the funds disappeared.
Portis, who filed for bankruptcy in 2015, didn’t disclose the exact amount he lost in those fraudulent investments to SI.com.
Burnsed broke down some of the money Portis owed:
- $412,000 in domestic support to four women
- $390,000 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- $287,000 to the MGM Grand Casino
- $170,000 to the Borgata
There were even rumors Portis owed his mother $500,000 stemming from a loan against the $900,000 house he purchased for her in Gainesville, FL.
According to Burnsed, these stories “missed the mark.”
Clinton Portis only had $150 left in his bank account when he filed for bankruptcy three years after he retired from the National Football League, per SI.com.
When Portis reached rock bottom financially, Edgerrin James, the running back he succeeded at Miami and a close friend, spoke up.
“Don’t bring that weak s— over here,” James told him (via SI.com). “Let’s just deal with the solution.”
While Rubin and Brahmbhatt lost their right to work in the financial sector and endured public ridicule, they never served time in jail.
Portis was downright furious.
“No jail time, no nothing,” he told SI.com in 2017. “Living happily ever after.”
Clinton Portis has four sons with Jamillah Wade: Chaz, Chasten, Camdin, and Casin.
Portis was named one of the 80 Greatest Redskins in 2012.
The University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame inducted Portis in 2014.
Portis’ dire financial straits compelled him to seek revenge against his financial advisers Jeff Rubin and Jinesh Brahmbhatt who allegedly mishandled a huge portion of the roughly $43.1 million he earned during his nine-year NFL career.
Almost all of the money Portis set aside for the future of his mother and four children had gone up in smoke.
Those who were allegedly responsible for defrauding Portis ignored his phone calls. He eventually reached his boiling point.
Portis contemplated revenge while he was in the kitchen of his two-bedroom apartment in Northern Virginia. Pleas, demands, and beatdowns didn’t satisfy him. Violence was the only thing on his mind.
“It wasn’t no beat up,” Portis told SI.com in 2017. “It was kill.”
— Broncos Wire (@TheBroncosWire) June 28, 2017
Fortunately, Clinton Portis never pulled the trigger.
His saving grace was a television producer he had been talking to while he held the gun. He met the producer – who has a background as a family therapist – when he auditioned for a reality TV show as his NFL career wound down.
She told him his loved ones remained even if his hard-earned money didn’t. She also convinced him it wasn’t worth leaving his four sons fatherless because he was incarcerated for murder.
Clinton Portis had another attack of conscience.
It was reminiscent of his high school days when he stopped selling weed because he didn’t want to end up like his older brother Gary.
Portis surrendered his pistol to his therapist friend. He remained with his family members over the next several months.
If there’s one takeaway he learned from his ordeals, it’s learning how to manage your finances yourself.
“The biggest regret is trusting people with my money,” he told Burnsed in 2017. “You shouldn’t. Go to bank.”
Clinton Portis has been giving back to the community.
He has collaborated with former NFL player Jack Brewer’s charity to supply food, water, and clothes to people in Haiti.
Portis’ Two 6 Foundation organizes a yearly Christmas feast for the less fortunate in the Washington, D.C. area. He also reads to children at the city’s schools every month.
Portis also has done media work for Daniel Snyder and appeared on various NFL Network shows. He’s also a regular guest of former Redskins teammate Chris Cooley on his radio show
Portis told SI.com he suffered more than ten concussions during his nine-year NFL career.
More than six years since Portis played in his final NFL down, he has felt the lingering effects of the concussions: memory lapses that made him struggle to put words together during his SI.com interview in 2017 and getting lost driving in familiar areas are some of the manifestations.
Portis could benefit from the league’s $1 billion concussion settlement. If tests prove he has early dementia, he will receive as much as $1.5 million. If he’s diagnosed with ALS, he can receive up to $5 million.
However, Clinton Portis is deathly afraid of the test results.
“F— that concussion money,” he told SI.com. “I’m scared. I’m really scared of the results.”
It has NOT been a good retirement for former Washington Football Team Star RB (@TheRealC_Portis) Clinton Portis. 😧😳
— Notoriety Sports Network ™ (@notorietysports) September 8, 2021
A Florida court issued a warrant for Portis’ arrest in August 2021 for allegedly failing to pay $147,962.49 in child support payments to a preschooler born in March 2015, per the Alachua Chronicle’s Jennifer Cabrera (via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio).
Clinton Portis’ legal troubles didn’t stop there.
Portis and fellow former NFL players Tamarick Vanover and Robert McCune all pleaded guilty for allegedly defrauding the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan for retired footballers on September 6, 2021.
According to court documents obtained by ESPN, Portis “caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to the plan on his behalf over a two-month period.”
Portis consequently claimed $99,264 in benefits for medical equipment that was never delivered.
In December 2019, Portis and nine other NFL players were charged with defrauding the program of more than $3.4 million.
They allegedly filed bogus claims for hyperbaric oxygen chambers and other high-priced medical equipment.
Portis received a six-month federal prison sentence and six months of home detention for his involvement in the health fraud scandal on January 6, 2022.
According to USA TODAY’s Tom Sdhad, the 40-year-old Portis signed a plea agreement several days after his criminal trial in a Kentucky U.S. District Court ended.
Part of the plea agreement Schad obtained reads:
“Portis knew the claims McCune submitted on his behalf were false and fraudulent or was aware of a high probability that the claims McCune submitted on his behalf were false and fraudulent and deliberately ignored that fact.”
The Department of Justice wanted a longer prison term because Portis continued to deny any wrongdoing until a hung jury warranted a retrial, per ESPN’s John Keim.
Keim also noted Portis didn’t pay back money to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan until shortly prior to his sentence.
Ex-NFL Star Running Back Clinton Portis Gets 6 Months In Prison. Pled guilty to a defrauding case back in Sept., was one of over a dozen players who took advantage of the NFL’s Gene Upshaw NFL Player Plan. Portis reportedly made over $100,000 from the elaborate scheme.👎😬 pic.twitter.com/wln6FrFAsS
— Sumner (@diamondlass99) January 7, 2022
John Eubanks and Carlos Rogers – two other former NFL players who pled guilty in the scandal – were Portis’ teammates with the then-Washington Redskins during the 2006 NFL season.
Portis will begin his federal prison sentence in March 2022.