And the 6-foot-3, 211-pounder with a rocket arm will get a chance to perform Thursday, when the Seattle Seahawks open exhibition play at San Diego at 5 p.m.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said starter Tarvaris Jackson will open against the Chargers and play a handful of plays. But Portis could play as much as a half Thursday.
The Seahawks had Portis targeted as one the players they liked heading into the April draft, and were one of the first teams to contact him near the draft’s conclusion on the final day. So it’s no big surprise he wound up in Seattle.
According to Seahawks quarterback coach Carl Smith, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell noticed Portis at the NFL scouting combine in February.
“He’s been surprising since he’s been here,” Smith said. “He’s done a really nice job. I’m anxious to see him against the Chargers. He’s shown a lot. He’s studied hard. He’s worked at it, and I’m anxious to see him play.”
In addition, Carroll recruited the 24-year-old while he was the head coach at USC and likes a strong-armed quarterback who can move. That could make Portis’ chances of landing on Seattle’s final 53-man roster a real possibility.
“Josh is going to be around here for a while,” Carroll said. “So we need to see how he develops because his talent is there. We’re going to take a great look at him. He’ll play a bunch in the preseason. And he’ll play a lot in the San Diego game. So we’re looking forward to seeing him and getting him out on the field.”
As an undrafted free agent, Portis signed a three-year deal with Seattle.
“I’m really having an exciting time in Seattle,” he said. “This is my first time being out here. I mean it’s beautiful out here – look at it. I’m just out here working hard every day. And when I get out here and they give me the opportunity, I’m definitely going to take advantage of it.”
You need a road map and a keen sense of direction to follow the winding road Portis took to get to Seattle. He grew up in the Los Angeles area and was considered one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country coming out of William Howard Taft High, where he threw for 2,294 yards and 36 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. Portis also ran for 865 yards with 13 rushing TDs.
Highly recruited out of high school, Portis attended the University of Florida on a football scholarship, but with Chris Leak ahead of him on the depth chart he transferred to Maryland after one year.
Portis sat out a year because of NCAA transfer rules, and then was ruled ineligible just before his sophomore season opener after reportedly getting caught cheating on a pop quiz.
He played sparingly for Maryland in 2008 and decided to transfer the following semester, winding up at Division II powerhouse California University (Pa.) – just a three-hour trip from Maryland.
There, Portis finally blossomed, setting school records with 3,421 passing yards and 36 touchdowns his senior season. He finished with 69 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in two seasons with the Vulcans.
But off the field, Portis once again stubbed his toe by getting arrested for using a stolen credit card in 2010.
“It’s a journey for me – not a regular three-year or four-year career,” Portis said. “But it’s been school, to school, to school – and I’ve had some obstacles that I’ve overcome, and that has made me a better person. And now I’m just out here enjoying and playing football.
“I definitely appreciate the opportunity and the privilege to be out here playing the game of football. It’s definitely made me a better person.”
Portis is blessed with outstanding athletic ability. He ran a 4.62 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, posted a 40-inch vertical jump and broad jumped 10 feet, 6 inches. But Portis says it’s more important for him to develop as a pocket passer. Portis also played in a pro-style offense for two seasons while at California (Pa.).
“That’s what a quarterback is,” he said. “A quarterback is a person who sits in the pocket and makes decisions effectively and consistently.”
Portis also has a good bloodline; he’s the cousin of former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, now out of the league and looking for a job.
“Clinton just tells me to keep grinding, man,” he said. “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.”
Carroll said receiver Mike Williams suffered a sprained toe Monday and will not play against San Diego. Receiver Kris Durham (hamstring) and defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer (neck stinger) did not practice Tuesday and will not play Thursday. Defensive lineman Ryan Sims has a swollen knee and is day-to-day, so he could be available against the Chargers. Defensive back Walter Thurmond still has not returned from a sprained ankle and will not play Thursday, and defensive lineman Red Bryant (knee) will not play against San Diego. He is expected to return to practice Saturday. Linebacker Aaron Curry and running back Thomas Clayton returned to practice Tuesday and should be ready for San Diego.