It hasn’t been an easy road for Kansas City Chiefs tight end Jody Fortson.
After he was signed as an undrafted free agent from Valdosta State in 2019, the Chiefs initially viewed the burly Fortson as a tight end — but ultimately earned him a spot in the wide receiver space. There he spent two full seasons on the Kansas City practice team.
Determined to make his way onto the list, he built up and worked on his blocking ahead of the 2021 offseason, reporting as the player the Chiefs originally thought they were going to get: a tight finish.
He was among the four tight ends to make it through the final cutdown of 2021 and went into the season with high hopes — which have largely been realized. He caught every ball thrown in his path (including two for touchdowns) with just 52 offensive snaps — and made a significant contribution to special teams.
Then, in Week 6 against the Washington Commanders, disaster struck: Fortson tore his Achilles tendon and was lost for the season.
But speaking to reporters after the second of three rookie and quarterback practice sessions leading up to the team’s first full training camp practice Wednesday, Fortson left no doubt about his game readiness.
“I feel like I’m ready to go,” he explained.
And it’s not like he’s just crossing the finish line of his recovery.
“I got a lot of replays during OTAs,” he recalls. “But when they were over, I was able to go home [to] my sneakers up at Top Shelf and [private wide receivers coach] steph [Brown] and working on my breaks and what not i felt like i was ready to go at that point.
Fortson said that during his rehabilitation he simply stuck to his beliefs – while those around him continued to believe in him.
“I have a strong support system – especially with my family and team around me,” he said proudly. “So I attacked every day like I was going to play on Sunday. I was in the rehab room just working – keep working like I’m getting dressed that Sunday. They never really allowed me to down myself. I was never really down.”
Fortson has specifically credited his mother and siblings — along with head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. But he saved his most fervent greeting for Chiefs athletic coach Tiffany Morton.
“She [was] very handy in my rehab,” he said. “I owe God a lot – but I owe her a lot. She was really handy; [she] didn’t let me give up. Some days I thought, ‘Tiff, I don’t want to do this.’ But she stayed with me and made sure I pushed through.”
And now he’s ready to pick up where he left off last season. He’s not even interested in answering reporters’ usual question: “How will the team do without wide receiver Tyreek Hill?”
“I just go out and play soccer,” Fortson said. “I just do what is asked of me. I don’t really think about it that much – because then you make mistakes and so on. I just go out and have fun and play soccer. Just let it loose!”
But that shouldn’t mean Fortson doesn’t take it seriously. He said he’s approaching the 2022 season with the same mentality as ever.
“It’s a dog-eat-dog environment,” he said. “That’s how I see it. And what kind of dog will you be?”