Clinton Portis's time with Redskins defined by the man he became after Sean Taylor's death

The Washington Post's Rick Maese, Dan Steinberg, Cindy Boren and Jonathan Forsythe preview Sunday's Redskins game against Brett Favre and the struggling Minnesota Vikings.
By Mike Wise
Thursday, November 25, 2010; 12:28 AM

If this is it for Clinton Portis in Washington, I won't remember him for lowering his shoulder and churning for more yards than any player in team history except John Riggins.

I won't remember Portis for his costumed personas such as Kid Bro Sweets and Southeast Jerome or the oft-forgotten Rev. Gonna Change, the alter ego that probably most resembled Portis this season.

If Portis has indeed taken his final handoff as a Redskin - a real possibility after he was put on injured reserve Wednesday - I will remember the person, not the player, who got a knock at his Miami hotel room door at 4 a.m. three years ago Saturday and heard the words he prayed he would not hear:

"Sean passed."

He sobbed when he found out his best friend on the team was murdered in a home invasion. Sean Taylor's tragic death was followed by a funeral and five more regular season games during the 2007 season - and, incredibly, one postseason game after the Redskins won their last four to advance.

"I was just in shock, emotional shock," Portis said then. "I couldn't accept it at first. Nothin' seemed real, nothin' at all."

He recounted some of his memories of Taylor this week. (Full disclosure: Portis appears weekly on a radio show I co-host on 106.7 FM.) One of them included taking all-terrain vehicles into the Northern Virginia hills on a 16-degree day.

"I was freezin', wipin' snot from my nose, ready to go in," he said. "Sean just looked at me like, 'Let's ride some more.' That was him. He wanted to keep going."

Portis said he wished more people knew Sean Taylor in life the way we learned about him in death. He spoke at length of the changed man his late teammate had become at the end of his mercurial life and of the way Taylor's daughter gave him genuine perspective.

What has gone unnoticed between Portis's say-anything appearances and push-and-pull relationship with the fan base and the franchise is that he changed too three years ago.

Immediately after he received the news, he began tearfully phoning teammates to let them know of Taylor's passing. He drove across town to comfort Taylor's father, returning to Washington the next morning and speaking to teammates.

Then he strapped them on his back and drove them downfield to the playoffs for the second time in Joe Gibbs's coaching return, easily the most gratifying and heart-wrenching moment of Daniel Snyder's tenure as owner.

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