RENTON, Wash. -- His cousin may be former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, but undrafted free agent quarterback Josh Portis is perhaps best known for his trip through three different colleges from 2005 through 2010. He started at the University of Florida, but transferred to Maryland after less than a season and sat out the 2006 season due to transfer rules, and was ruled ineligible for the 2007 season after he was caught cheating on a pop quiz. He played for the Terrapins in 2008 and then transferred to Division II school California (PA) after inconsistency put him on the Maryland bench. He ripped up D-II defenses in 2009 and 2010, but questions about his multiple transfers and undeveloped skill set kept teams from drafting him.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who recruited Portis when he was a well-regarded high school prospect, signed the quarterback to the standard three-year undrafted contract and let him go. Portis started training camp looking very much like the running quarterback he often was in college, but he's improved day by day, showing off a rocket arm, surprisingly good mechanics from under center, and a basic command of route concepts.
"I am really, really excited about Josh," Carroll said after Seahawks practice on Saturday. "Josh is a guy that I've known for so long, since he was a kid, and now to see him after all those travels that he's been through — whether it was high school or college, I think he's been to seven or eight schools and he never really settled in until his last stop at California, Pennsylvania. 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 really a talented kid. He's got great feet, he's got great delivery and a very strong arm. And he's very poised about it. He's just been a real pleasant surprise, so we're real excited about him being the third guy right now and knowing that in time he's going to gain knowledge of the offense and get settled in and let that ability really come to the front. He's an extremely big get for us in free agency."
Portis has talked to his famous cousin, who is currently without an NFL team, about the challenges of the pro game. "Clinton just tells me to keep grinding — he's a character. I don't know what's going on with him, but I'm sure he'll find a team sometime shortly."
Like starter Tarvaris Jackson, Portis is a mobile quarterback who can throw on the run, which helps him when he can talk with a more experienced player about how it's supposed to work. "Oh, yeah — I talk to Tarvaris all the time. He's working extremely hard at his craft, and I definitely think he's going to do well this year."
Asked about the importance of having two quarterbacks on the roster with similar physical attributes — after all, it would seem to drag the system down if you're moving back and forth between scheme packages for wildly different quarterbacks -- Carroll spoke of the need to get all his players in line in that regard.
"It's good and bad. I like different dimensions on guys. It does allow the continuity to go from one guy to the next, we don't have to change much. [second-string quarterback] Charlie (Whitehurst) can do all of the same stuff that Tarvaris can do, so all three guys have big arms and can get the ball down the field. It's not causing us any issues. Josh is a really good runner, he's really fast. So he has a little bit extra there. It does help, a little bit."
NFLDraftscout.com Senior Draft Analyst Rob Rang had this to say about Portis. "He has quick feet and balance to elude in the pocket, and good straight-line speed for the position. Excellent mobility for the rollout and shows at least moderate accuracy when on the move. With an over-the-top release and good follow-through, Portis has at least moderate accuracy to all levels. He has the arm for the deep ball, and he throws the bomb with good touch and trajectory so it's an easy ball to catch.
"On the downside, the transfer from Florida to Maryland to California, leads some to question whether he has the work ethic to handle competition. He may struggle with a complicated playbook, as he has had some struggles with academics. He faced questionable competition. Portis floats many of his passes, showing only marginal accuracy overall. He's capable of hitting his man, but isn't able to hit them in stride often enough. He has to do a better job of looking off the safety, and he stares down his primary target too often."
When the Seahawks travel to San Diego to face the Chargers this upcoming Thursday, Portis will likely see at least a half of action. It's his first chance in the NFL, and the nation will see him on the biggest stage of his life.