By now you’ve been made aware of Kentucky’s All-SEC and All-American candidates along the Big Blue Wall. Most of the BBN can rattle off the names of center Drake Jackson and tackles Darian Kinnard as well as Landon Young. Heck, with the highly visible competition at left guard, Kenneth Horsey and Austin Dotson have grabbed more ink time than the consistent force at right guard, Luke Fortner.
Fortner is a 6’6, 300-pound guard from Sylvania, Ohio. I can remember co-hosting the National Signing Day Show when he signed with the Cats. I made the comparison to that of Jon Toth. Fortner has enjoyed a successful career in Lexington both on and off the field. On the field, his dependability was highlighted by starting 13 games in 2019 with zero missed assignments, registering 27 knockdown blocks, allowed just one QB Sack, and was responsible for one penalty in 646 plays. He was a vital member of the Big Blue Wall that helped four Wildcats rush for 500 yards.
Luke Fortner has been just as impactful off the field as he was inducted into the Frank G. Ham Society of Character, which honors Wildcats who have shown an extraordinary commitment to academic excellence, athletic participation, personal development, career preparation and serving as a role model.
His accomplishments don’t stop there.
A mechanical engineer major who, along with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky and other engineering students, helped design a specially built push cart vehicle to provide a Kentucky Children’s Hospital patient the chance to both accompany the Wildcats on the Cat Walk and attend a game at Kroger Field in a project called “Lift Them Up.” He followed this initiative with several visits to the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital.
He has also been named as a nominee for the 2020 Wuerffel Trophy which is “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service.” Amazingly there is even more accolades for the senior guard. Fortner has been named a candidate for the 2020 William V. Campbell Trophy which recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for his academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.
Along with fellow team unity council member Josh Paschal, Fortner met with the media to discuss the team’s unity in relation to social injustice. Fortner showed up to the facility expecting to practice, but once he saw how visibly shaken some of his teammates were by what they’ve seen across the country, he was prepared to take action.
“This isn’t just an issue for our Black teammates. It’s an issue that involves all of our players and should involve all of our fans and community,” said Fortner. “We realize that as athletes we have a platform and we have decided as a team that we will use this platform for positive change. What does this mean? It means that we’re not just going to Tweet a hashtag. We plan on continuing our volunteer service, but with an emphasis on youth minorities in the community. We plan on opening dialogue with the Lexington police and inviting an open conversation. We plan on making this a consistent effort, not just something that dies down in just a week.”
Fortner’s resume is enormously convincing. Holding a degree in mechanical engineering with honors and a plethora of extracurricular activities will make Luke a hotly fought over prospect for the business sector. However, corporate America will have to wait until football is over. I have him rated as a free agent signee as a bare minimum. I can see him being drafted along with Drake Jackson, Landon Young, and Darian Kinnard. Regardless, the sky is the limited for this remarkably selfless young man.