The Kansas City Chiefs spent the last two seasons developing the talents of Jody Fortson hoping the young tight end prospect would break through in a way they’d envisioned since first signing him back before the 2019 season out of Valdosta State as a rookie free agent. On Sunday, they watched him suffer a tragic Achilles injury that robbed him of that very sort of season just as he was beginning to prove himself in the team’s offense.
In the team’s win over the Washington Football Team in Week 6, the Chiefs watched Fortson go down when coming off the line with a non-contact injury that led to the quick Achilles diagnosis. Fortson was in a lot of pain and it was apparent at the time of injury that something significant was wrong. From there, the Chiefs affirmed the worst—that Fortson would be forced to miss the rest of the season.
So far in the 2021 season, Fortson had been one of the more compelling stories, beginning with the fact that his presence forced the Chiefs to keep four tight ends on the active roster. After being placed on the practice squad for two consecutive seasons, the Chiefs knew he would not make it through waivers after watching him grow so much this preseason.
Travis Kelce has confidence that Jody Fortson can overcome this Achilles injury and come back stronger in 2022.
From there, Fortson not only made the team but was slowly becoming a target with a penchant for making big gains or plays. He came into Week 6 with only four catches but two of those were touchdowns, including this incredible catch in the end zone in a Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Even on the day he was injured, Fortson put up another catch that rivals his end zone grab on a laser from Mahomes. Here, he goes up and over Landon Collins on a slightly under thrown pass from Mahomes just short of the goal line. The way he tracks the ball, uses his body, and comes down with the catch is a thing of beauty.
Shortly after this was when Fortson went down. At that point, the Chiefs lost a rarely used yet important target who was likely growing into a larger role given the level of trust he was earning from both the coaching staff and Mahomes. And for Fortson, it was the loss of a breakout season in which he was finally earning the sort of opportunities and attention he’d worked so hard to make.
Despite the nature of the injury, and the long road of recovery ahead, starting tight end Travis Kelce believes that the Achilles tear is a hurdle Fortson can and will overcome. When speaking to the media on Thursday, Kelce said that Fortson would “be fine” and “come back stronger.” Kelce is not alone, as Fortson himself has maintained a positive front in the face of it all.
Here’s hoping Kelce is right because Fortson certainly deserves the chance to grow into a go-to target for the Chiefs. His impressive skill set paired with his hard work and determination has gotten him this far, and it could carry him to be a contributor once again in 2022.