We recently sat down with Valdosta State product Jody Fortson, who turned a tryout with the Chiefs at minicamp into a contract offer.
For some players, all they need is a chance. Jody Fortson not only fought incredibly hard to be noticed enough for a tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs but he made the most of it. The end result is an official contract to be a member of the Chiefs and an even greater chance to impress the team’s front office and coaching staff in OTAs and potentially training camp as well.
Fortson will be listed as a tight end if you look him up, but he’s a work-in-progress to be sure. He was a 6’6 wide receiver from Valdosta State most recently, but the Chiefs are turning that size, route-running acumen and good hands into an asset at tight end instead. It’s going to take some time, but Fortson knows all about overcoming obstacles. This entire journey has been an uphill climb.
We recently sat down with Fortson to ask him about his pro career and when the Chiefs first started showing interest in the Division II product. He knows he has a long road ahead and he certainly doesn’t need us to remind him.
I know your road to this point has been quite difficult and yet here you are with the Chiefs. Have you reflected much on the journey to this point?
One thing about me is that I’ve always believed in myself. Even bigger than myself, I’ve always believed in God in what He’s promised me. I’m just staying in tune with that. So even when I get discouraged or think it might not happen, I just tune in with my faith. I’ve wanted to be a professional football player for as long as I can remember. I mean, every day of my life since I was about six or seven years old, this is the only thing I’ve wanted to do. It’s definitely been a long journey with a lot of obstacles and speed bumps, but I just remain focused. That’s what I want to bring to the next level—that tenacity, that focus.
When you say “obstacles” or “speed bumps,” can you flesh that out? What are some tangible things that got in your way?
The first thing was the passing of my uncle during my freshman year of college. When I first started playing football, he was somebody I always looked up to and admired. He’d wake me up at 6:00 in the morning and we’d go run Delaware Park in Buffalo, New York. We’d go to work out and catch 100 balls in the backyard before the sun even came up. The passing of him was pretty devastating for me. I felt like I’d lost a father figure, somebody who really believed in me. The only way I kept going through that was to not let the work he put in me go to waste.
A couple years later, I’m at junior college and my mom ended up breaking her hip. I had to transfer back to a junior college in my hometown. I had to help work and go to school and play football all at the same time. That was a large load.
Then I finally get an opportunity to go to Valdosta and then I become academically ineligible one year. I had to sit out an entire season and keep in mind, this was the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do was play football. Sitting and watching everybody else play on a mistake I could have avoided definitely hurt. I just stayed focused on and put the work in.
Did you ever think that football was in the rearview mirror for you?
I never thought it was the end of the road. It just felt like it was going to be tough to come back from it. I never had a call it quits attitude. I don’t know how to quit. I think that’s a blessing for me, I think.
What do you learn about yourself when you had to sit?
First and foremost, I learned patience. Everything happens according to God’s will and you can’t rush anything. It’s not that you have to go with the flow, but you have to watch how it all pans out. From the sideline, I took maybe a million mental reps where I was looking at what was happening around me and how to handle certain situations. Even though I wasn’t playing, I was still a part of the game. I was still with my teammates and still giving them the knowledge that I had. They still had to go out there and play. But I was still working as if I had to play.
You obviously went undrafted a couple weeks ago. You can add that to your list.
The entire draft process was pretty nerve-wracking to be honest with you. Every kid wants to get drafted and hear Roger Goodell say their name. I missed the first five games of my senior year due to a hamstring injury, so I already knew that I was in the hole or climbing uphill in terms of what I can do and what’s on paper. I’m so grateful for the Chiefs taking a chance on me given that information. So I was watching the draft and seeing these names go by and that was hard. But everybody whose name was called are good players and I look forward to playing against them.
Do you remember the point you knew the Chiefs had interest?
I wanna say going back to the season, actually. We had a scout come down who actually worked for the Buffalo Bills and the University of Buffalo at one time. Then during my pro day, they spoke with me a lot and had me do some tight end drills as well. We were in pretty good contact. Then my agent, he’s on his A-game and he talked to them every day. It was pretty frequent.
So it wasn’t a surprise, then?
No, it wasn’t a surprise. I knew if I didn’t get drafted, they were in my top three, so I wasn’t surprised at all. I feel like it’s a good fit for me. It’s a really young team. Patrick Mahomes is the reigning NFL MVP. Who wouldn’t want him throwing the ball? They have a lot of weapons. They drafted some exciting talent. The situation looks perfect to me.
Were you thrown off by the potential move or reps at tight end?
Not at all. I’m an athlete first and foremost, so anything I can do to help the team, I’m for it. It didn’t throw me off at all. Any way to create a mismatch and win games, I’m willing to do it.
The first thing people notice is your obvious size, but what else would you want people to know about you and what you bring on the field?
I’m physical. They put that together when they say, ‘Oh, you’re big so you must be physical. You must be strong.’ But I can also run routes. I don’t need to depend on my physicality to get any separation from the DB or linebacker whoever it may be. After the catch, once the ball is in my hands, I’m like a running back. I don’t run out of bounds or play the game like it’s nothing. I’m trying to win at all costs.
I know it’s going to be a tough road, but I wouldn’t expect anything different from that.