DENVER, Colo. - Clinton Portis, the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Denver Broncos, received the first of what will undoubtedly be many league honors, being named the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year for the 2002 season.
Portis, who led all rookies in rushing with 1,056-yards, completed a stellar inaugural season, staking claim with 17 touchdowns, the third highest total by a rookie in NFL history. Along the way he also set numerous franchise records including rushing yards, total yards from scrimmage (1,872) and yards per-carry (5.52).
"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 head 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."
A nationwide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters gave Portis a total of 29 out of a possible 49 first-place votes, twelve votes ahead of former University of Miami teammate Jeremy Shockey, who finished second in the voting with 17.
"I'm glad I beat him out," Portis said. "I wasn't worried, if he got it, he got it, but I'm glad it came to me, and I guess I can be comfortable and sleep well knowing I got it."
"I think it's just opening up peoples eyes to UM."
The award also opened up people's eyes to the Broncos uncanny ability to develop superstar running backs, dating back to former league MVP Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson, the only other Bronco running back to receive Rookie of the Year honors.
Ironically it was Anderson who played a major part in Portis success, opening up huge holes for the rookie to break through, and in doing so allowed Portis to break his own franchise record, set during Anderson's rookie season in 2000.
"I knew he was going to be something special if he could get the system down right away," Anderson told reporters. "Once we started in preseason, and once he started to get a feel for the game, he just started growing."
Houston quarterback David Carr and New Orleans guard LeCharles Bentley were the only other rookies in contention, receiving one vote each.
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