Clinton Portis was a force for the football team now known as the Washington Commanders back in the day, and while he was undeniably great on the field, he was arguably just as good off of it thanks to the press conferences that made headlines week in and week out.
The Miami product spent nine years in the NFL (which is pretty impressive for a running back). He earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors after being drafted by the Broncos in the second round in 2002 and made a couple of Pro Bowls by the time he hung up his cleats.
There’s no award reserved for the NFL player known for giving the most entertaining press conferences, but if that piece of hardware exists, there’s little doubt Portis would’ve won it.
As Marshawn Lynch let us all know in 2015, NFL players have a contractual agreement to grant interviews to members of the press if they don’t want to get fined. However, as he proved, they don’t have to give any real insight or answer any questions as long as they show up and stand in front of the microphones and cameras for a few minutes.
It’s a part of the job that a lot of guys understandably hate, especially when they have to face the music after losing a game or get peppered with questions during an underwhelming season. However, some of them also press conferences as an opportunity to have a little bit of fun and turn what could be a contractually obligated snoozefest into a source of entertainment.
It’s kind of like when stand-up comedians do a local radio spot to promote an upcoming show. While some of them use those appearances as a chance to crack some jokes and try to move tickets, others (like Tom Segura) make a mockery of the entire thing and arguably bolster their Personal Brand better than they would’ve if they’d taken things seriously.
Clinton Portis (for reasons only really known to him) decided to take a similar approach during his time in the league—and the world definitely took notice.
Clinton Portis mastered the art of the NFL press conference with his many characters
It’s worth noting Portis wasn’t unwilling to speak with the media, and there were plenty of instances where his press conferences were standard affairs where he answered the kind of questions you’d expect an NFL player to field.
However, he also wasn’t shy about breaking out one of his characters when the spirit moved him, as his impressive lineup of alter egos included eccentric personalities with names like:
- Sheriff Gone Getcha
- Dr. I Don’t Know
- Dollah Bill
- Kid Bro Street
- Reverend Gon’ Change
Sadly, it’s a bit hard to track down clips of all of them, but the internet is still home to a couple you can use to get some insight into his approach.
Dolemite Jenkins was a great introduction to Clinton’s comedic arsenal; it was his breakout character and it was brilliant.
An obvious rip-off of Napoleon Dynamite, Portis not only rocked a similar costume but perfectly embodied the personality of the quirky character and the delivery of his signature “GOSH!”
“Dolemite” really threw the reporters speaking to him for a loop, as they tried to ask legitimate football questions addressed only to be rebuked by Portis as he remained in character (the best part is one guy who tried to play along by asking about his hair only to get hit with a ‘Next question”).
Cho-Choo was a big step up, and you can tell he really became Choo-Choo here to the point where Portis was talking about himself in the third person.
I love this character because it was a wholly original creation. He wasn’t doing a specific impression or aping another character people were already aware of; Choo-Choo was just Choo-Choo (although I can’t really even begin to try to describe who Choo-Choo really was).
He also spoke a bit more than he did with Dolemite, so you could tell he was getting a bit more comfortable with the whole charade.
If you’re wondering if either of these were around Halloween, they weren’t. Clinton just liked to have some fun and boy did he ever.
This was the alternative to the “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” response, and rather than make it clear he was annoyed by the media obligations, Portis used it as an opportunity to bring some joy into the world while essentially achieving the same end goal as the man known as “Beast Mode.”
I really wish more athletes did things like this. In a world where celebrities are more accessible to us in their everyday lives thanks to social media, they have nothing to hide anymore. If you like being silly, be silly! It will encourage fans around the world to like you more.
So, if you happen to be a pro athlete who’s reading this: maybe take some inspiration from Clinton Portis.