June 10, 2011 at 8:42 AM

QB Josh Portis passing the time

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Waiting for call is the hardest part
By Mark McGuire, Albany Times-Union
Official site

The disappointment a player feels at not being drafted offers one redeeming reality: You get to choose your employer.

And while it would be too much to call it a silver lining, the fact that an undrafted rookie gets to pick where he signs gives the opportunity to scope out the best chance at earning a roster spot.

But this year, even that bright side is delayed. The lockout has left hundreds of undrafted free agents stuck in a particular type of limbo. They're like everyone else, waiting, but unlike just about everyone else, they can't be sure of where they'll be reporting for work. It's a tough bit, first wading through the disappointment of not being drafted and then having the NFL lock its doors on you before there was ever a chance to find an employer.

That's what made quarterback Josh Portis' perspective a little bit unexpected, impressive even.

No bitterness or hand-wringing, and while the situation is not ideal, he wasn't bemoaning a lack of opportunity. He was too busy readying himself for it.

"I've just been preparing myself for this time," Portis said from Southern California. "You've just got to be a responsible person."

Portis was the only Division II quarterback invited to the NFL scouting combine. He is 6 feet 4, 215 pounds. In high school, he was one of the most highly sought after quarterbacks. He picked Florida coming out of Taft High School in Southern California, but similar to Cam Newton, transferred after finding himself behind some Tebow guy on the depth chart.

Portis spent two years at Maryland, played one season, and transferred to California University in Pennsylvania. He threw for a school-record 69 touchdowns in his two seasons. Walt Harris, the former Pittsburgh and Stanford coach, was offensive coordinator in Portis' senior year.

Portis is a quarterback the Seahawks had on their draft board, one they expressed interest in signing after he went unchosen. And Seattle is a place Portis could very conceivably choose to play.

(Full disclosure: Chris Sullivan - who's on Twitter @seahawkaddicts -- first pointed out Portis and Twitter rumors of Portis' connection to the Seahawks. Are you following Chris? If not, why not? Do it, like, now.)

And it got me wondering how a player in Portis' situation is handling the current labor impasse. Here he is, essentially on his own to prepare to compete for a job that's going to be an uphill battle to win. Being an undrafted rookie is not a death sentence in the NFL. Hardly. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 1,000 yards in Tampa Bay last season. He wasn't drafted. Neither was James Harrison, the Pittsburgh linebacker who was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

But it's also an uphill climb. Last year, one undrafted rookie made Seattle's opening-day 53-man roster: long-snapper Clint Gresham. The year before it was defensive lineman Michael Bennett. Others like safety C.J. Wallace, fullback Leonard Weaver and linebacker David Hawthorne played their way onto the team after not being drafted.

Right now, quarterback is a spot where Seattle has a need. Charlie Whitehurst is the only one under contract for next season, and even if Matt Hasselbeck is re-signed - still a question - the Seahawks need to add a young passer they hope to develop.

That's the role Portis could choose to vie for in Seattle. But in the meantime, he's living in Southern California for the first time since high school, staying with his mom and working out at Long Beach Community College with other aspiring pro players like Terrence Austin, a former USC wide receiver the Washington Redskins drafted in the seventh round in 2010, and David Ausberry, the USC receiver chosen in the seventh round by the Raiders this year.

"I'm just working out hard every day," Portis said, "trying to get better, improve my mechanics."

The players do speed workouts with trainers, and replicate the seven-on-seven passing drills that are a staple of every team's offseason workouts. They also do their best to keep the long-term goal in mind rather than any short-term uncertainty.

"I know there's going to be a season," Portis said. "There has to be a season."

He's just like the rest of us, waiting to find out when that might start and just as importantly, when he can report to work.

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