RENTON — Early in Seahawks training camp, a lot of the focus has been on quarterbacks.
Namely two quarterbacks — one who is new to Seattle, and one who left after 10 seasons as the Seahawks starter. But as much as the talk has focused on former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who sign
ed with Seattle in free agency, Matt Hasselbeck, who has moved on to Tennessee, a third, far lesser known signal caller will be front and center when the Seahawks play their first preseason game in San Diego Thursday.
So with preseason game No. 1 only a couple of days away, now is a good time to meet the team’s third-string quarterback, Josh Portis. If you haven’t heard of Portis, that’s all right. Few in these parts had prior to two weeks ago. An undrafted rookie out of Division-II California University of Pennsylvania, Portis is one of many undrafted free agents fighting for a roster spot. The difference between Portis and his fellow undrafted rookies, however, is that he will spend a good chunk of Thursday’s game playing the game’s most visible position.
With Jackson only having less than a week under his belt, he won’t see much playing time, so after Charlie Whitehurst gets his work in, expect to see a heavy dose of Portis, who despite going undrafted, could figure into Seattle’s long-term plans.
“Josh is going to be around here for a while,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We need to see how he develops because his talent is there. We’re going to take a great look. He’ll play a bunch in preseason and he’ll play a lot in the San Diego game, so we’re looking forward to seeing him get out on the field. 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.”
And it’s easy to see why Carroll and the Seahawks are excited about Portis. After struggling in his first few days of practice, the 6-foot-3 Portis has gotten progressively better. With a big arm and tremendous athleticism, Portis looks more like a big-time prospect than a Division-II player, and there’s a reason for that — he once was a big-time prospect.
Coming out of Taft High School in southern California, Portis had a number of Division I offers and ended up at Florida. The emergence of Tim Tebow at Florida led Portis to transfer to Maryland, but things didn’t work out their either. So it was off to California — Pennsylvania, that is — where Portis developed into star quarterback, just not on the level he had imagined. Even so, he was impressive enough at California to be the only Division-II player invited to the NFL scouting combine.
“Pete Carroll and the coaches always crack on me about that when they see me in the facility, ‘How many schools you go to?'” said the 24-year-old Portis. “It’s been a journey for me. Not your regular three-year, four-year college career. It’s been school to school to school and I just had some obstacles that I overcame and it made me a better person, and I’m just out here enjoying football. I definitely appreciate the opportunity and the privilege to play the game of football and it has definitely made me a better person.”
Portis, who also attended two high schools prior to settling at Taft, has an uphill battle despite his physical talents. No matter how impressive he may or may not look in preseason games, Portis isn’t someone you’ll likely see on the field during the regular season. Seattle could keep him on as its No. 3 quarterback, or he could end up on the practice squad. That all being said, however, Portis knows Thursday is a big chance for him.
“It’s a real big opportunity,” said Portis, the cousin of Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis. “It’s a first chance for me to actually get out there on the field and compete with the guys and have a good time. If football’s not fun, then you shouldn’t be playing it. And I think the game of football is real fun and I enjoy playing the game of football. I work hard at it and hopefully it comes out the way I want it to.”
So keep an eye on Portis having fun on Thursday night. You won’t be watching the Seahawks’ starting quarterback for this season, but you will see a player who took the long road to get to the NFL, and someone who just might stick around for a while and be a part of Seattle’s long-term plans.
“I am really, really excited about Josh,” said Carroll, who recruited Portis at USC, but did not end up offering a scholarship. “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.
“When he comes to us, you have no idea what he’s going to be like. 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 … He’s an extremely big get for us in free agency.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog