Ex-Hurricanes Gore, Portis have mutual respect

SANTA CLARA – The question seemed like a ridiculously easy one for Clinton Portis: Which former University of Miami tailback is the best NFL rusher?

Like most ex-Hurricanes, Portis doesn't lack self-esteem, and he has a well-developed sense of humor. The question was a softball, and the Redskins running back would oblige by hitting it out of the park. The next words out of his mouth would be "Clinton Portis."

Instead, his smile disappeared and he grew serious.

"Honestly, I always thought Frank was the best one out of all of us, and I'm big on myself," Portis told the NFL Network in June.

When you're a key player in a high-profile college program, you don't always root for your understudy to succeed. But to hear Portis and Frank Gore tell it, there wasn't a speck of jealousy between them at Miami.

Gore said Portis, who was a junior when Gore was a freshman, treated him like a younger brother, teaching him the playbook and letting Gore hold his car – an old, gold Toyota Camry – whenever Portis was away. In return, Gore's mother, Liz, threw Portis the mother of all draft parties at her home in Coconut Grove, Fla., when Portis left Miami for the Denver Broncos in April 2002.

Portis said he was impressed with Gore even before the latter set foot on campus. While Gore was in high school, Portis and his Miami teammates sat in the stands as Gore's school, Coral Gables High, took on the school of future Miami wide receiver Sinorice Moss.

"They ran a four-receiver, run-and-shoot set and just gave (Gore) draws," Portis recalled. "He single-handedly ran through Carol City (High School), and they were the top team. That wowed me."

Far from begrudging him playing time, Portis said he would remove himself in the second half of games to give Gore extra carries. Before Miami was to play Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl, Portis turned to his roommate.

"He said, 'I'm going to give you the rock,' " Gore said. " 'This is my last game. Now you've got to hold it down for me.' I was excited about that. Now I get the chance to be the man."

Which isn't to say the former Hurricane tailbacks don't have a brotherly rivalry.

The two have gone head to head only once, in 2005 when Gore was a backup to Kevan Barlow. Late in that game, Gore broke a 72-yard touchdown run, and he finished with 89 rushing yards.

Portis, however, was 12 yards better, and he scored three touchdowns in a 52-17 Redskins rout.

Gore also knows Portis has the edge over him this season in rushing yards, 1,407 to 978.

"We're so competitive we always want to outrush each other," Gore said. "He got me this year, but you know, I'm going to try and come back this Sunday and outperform him. We've got to win. If I do that and win, hey, we're good. Happy New Year to me."