It hasn't been an easy road for Kansas City Chiefs tight end Jody Fortson.
After he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Valdosta State in 2019, the Chiefs initially saw the big-bodied Fortson as a tight end — but ultimately, he was given a seat in the wide receivers' room. There, he spent two full seasons on Kansas City's practice squad.
Determined to find his way onto the roster, he bulked up and worked on his blocking prior to the 2021 offseason, reporting as the player the Chiefs originally thought they were getting: a tight end.
He was among four tight ends to make it through 2021's final cutdown, coming into the season with high hopes — which were largely realized. He caught every ball thrown his way (including two for touchdowns) on just 52 offensive snaps — and was a significant contributor on special teams.
Then, in Week 6 against the Washington Commanders, disaster struck: Fortson suffered a torn Achilles and was lost for the season.
But speaking to reporters following the second of three rookie-and-quarterback practice sessions that precede the team's first full training camp practice on Wednesday, Fortson left no doubt about his readiness to play.
"I feel like I'm ready to go," he declared.
And it's not like he's just now crossing the finish line of his recovery.
"I got a lot of reps during OTAs," he recalled. "But once they ended and I was able to go home [to] my trainers up at Top Shelf and [private wide receivers coach] Steph [Brown] and work 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 kept his faith — as those around him continued to keep their faith in him.
"I've got a strong support system — especially with my family and my team around me," he said proudly. "So I just attacked every day as if I was going to play on Sunday. I was in the rehab room, just working — continuing to work as if I was going to suit up that Sunday. They never really allowed me to get down on myself. I was never actually down."
Fortson specifically credited his mother and siblings — along with head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. But he saved his most fervent shout-out for Chiefs athletic trainer Tiffany Morton.
"She [was] very hands-on with my rehab," he said. "I owe a lot to God — but I owe a lot to her. She really was hands-on; [she] didn't let me give up. There were some days I was like, 'Tiff, I don't want to do this.' But she stayed on me and made sure I fought through it."
And now, he's ready to just pick up where he left off last season. He's not even interested in answering the reporters' usual question: "How will the team get along without wide receiver Tyreek Hill?"
"I just go out there and play football," insisted Fortson. "I just do what's being asked of me. I don't really get to overthinking it that much — because then, you get to creating mistakes and what-not. I just go out there, have fun and play football. Just cut it loose!"
But that shouldn't suggest that Fortson isn't taking it seriously. He said that he's approaching the 2022 season with the same mentality he always does.
"It's a dog-eat-dog environment," he said. "That's how I see it. And what kind of dog are you going to be?"