It’s easy to forget that when Jody Fortson first signed as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 — following a rookie minicamp tryout, no less — he was already a tight end. That was the position he had played at Valdosta State University after transferring from Erie Community College.
So while we media types have spent a lot of time in recent weeks noting how Fortson put on weight so he could transition to tight end during the offseason, it’s really not as if he was unfamiliar with the position. The Chiefs had simply put him in with the wide receivers during 2020’s abbreviated training camp after he had failed to make the final roster as a tight end in 2019.
In fact, speaking to reporters on Wednesday — becoming the final Chiefs player to be put before the media in advance of Friday’s final preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night — Fortson acted as if putting on the weight hadn’t really been that big of a deal.
“I didn’t think too much of it,” he said. “I love football. I love the game. So if that meant I had to bulk up and play left tackle, I was going to do it — because this game brings me joy. So I just attacked it like I attack everything else: get my mind set and just get it done, whether that be eating a couple more sandwiches, another protein shake — maybe a little bit of junk food here and there, just to keep my weight up — I’m doing whatever it takes.”
Fortson has previously been a training camp crush for Chiefs fans, so no one will find fault if you’re not convinced he’ll make the final roster next week. But if he does, the story will have begun when he sat down with special teams coach Dave Toub.
“Me and coach Toub, we had a discussion early in OTAs about what I needed to do,” he recalled, “and what kind of a mindset I needed to have.”
On Tuesday, Toub had already told his side of the story.
“He came into my office during the offseason,” said Toub. “I just laid it out for him.”
And while he was putting on extra weight, Fortson reflected on what Toub had said.
“I meditated on that all offseason as far as what I needed to do in holding guys up, putting hands on people and being thicker,” he said. “So I just took the advice he gave me.”
Thus far, it seems to have paid off. Toub has now identified Fortson as one of the players who has done the most to improve his value to the Chiefs.
“That’s why I’m so excited about him — because he’s done it,” said Toub with more than a small trace of pride. “He’s got himself into a position to be successful.”
Should he make the roster next week, a big part of the reason might be two different blocks he made to spring running back Derrick Gore for big gains during Friday night’s preseason matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.
“I would say I did my job,” said Fortson of those plays, demonstrating an attitude that is likely winning him more support among Chiefs coaches. “I was able to show that I could hold my own against the linebackers, stay on track, finish my block and spring my running back open. So I just feel like I showed a balanced game.”
And the team’s superstar tight end has been playing a role in bringing Fortson along.
“I watch Travis Kelce highlights before the game; his locker’s right next to mine,” grinned Fortson. “To be able to have him in the room — with not only myself but the younger tight end Noah Gray — that’s a big deal for us. We’ve got one of the best in the game to learn from every day. We can pick the phone up and call. He’s right there to give us the answers and the keys — just help us navigate this game. Kelce’s been a great influence on my game [while] transitioning to the tight end room — that’s for sure.”
Fortson said that Kelce has already given him a piece of advice that has stayed with him.
“I remember our first preseason game this year, Kelce told me, ‘Don’t let the moment be bigger than you. You are bigger than the moment.’ That’s just been resonating with me: just to go out there and have fun; play the game. I’ve been doing this for a long time. It might be for a new position and in front of a bunch more eyes, but nothing has changed about the game. It’s all the same. So just go out there and not make it too much of a big deal — just do what I know I am capable of doing.”