The Denver Broncos keep finding dominant young running backs. The latest, Clinton Portis, beat college teammate Jeremy Shockey for the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award yesterday.
Denver's run on star runners began in 1995 with Terrell Davis. It continued with Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson -- the top offensive rookie in 2000 -- and now Portis.
"I'm just glad to finally win something," said Portis, who ran for 1,508 yards, by far the most among rookies and fourth overall in the NFL. "I think the last time I won anything individually was in high school. I think I was named county player of the year or something like that."
Like University of Miami teammate Shockey, Portis isn't exactly shy. Unlike Shockey, he wasn't selected until the second round of April's draft, 51st overall. Of course, the Broncos didn't take Davis and Anderson until the sixth round, and Gary was picked in the fourth.
But Davis's wrecked knee forced him out of football, and Anderson was switched to fullback. So Portis quickly became a factor, and he scored 17 touchdowns, tied for third-most by a rookie in NFL history, and tied for third in the NFL in 2002.
He also had the second-best average per carry ever for a rookie, 5.52, behind Franco Harris's 5.61 in 1972.
"If you look at the type of stats he produced and realize that he didn't start the first four games of the season, it's somewhat unbelievable," Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's got a lot of confidence in himself and his abilities. He really believes he belongs on the field with the best players in the NFL, and that's the type of mind-set you have to have to be successful."
Portis earned 29 votes from a nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. Shockey, the New York Giants' energetic and sometimes outrageous tight end, received 17 votes.
"I'm glad I beat him out," Portis said. "He had a good year, but I'm glad I got it. I think it's just opening up people's eyes in the league to UM. You look at the other players we had that played well. . . . I think I was the last pick out of all of them, so I'm glad I was the one to win it."