By KINSEY HISLE – COPY CHIEF
Steven Fortner, a senior from Maryville, TN, has been playing football since the first grade. He began on his elementary school team, the Friendsville Falcons, and now is an offensive lineman at Centre College.
As a starting offensive guard Fortner aided the Centre offense in setting program records for both total yards (4,453) and yards per game (445.3) in 2013.
Some recognitions he has received in his Colonel football career include being named to the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Academic Honor Roll in 2012, First Team All-SAA in 2013 and USA College Football Preseason All-American going into the 2014 season.
Fortner was recently named to the South Region Second Team Offense on the 2014 D3 Senior Classic Preseason Super Senior Watch List. Fortner accepted this recognition as humbly as he has the others.
“At first when I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I’ve only actually been playing for one year. I didn’t think I would get any sort of recognition like that,” Fortner said. “It meant a lot when I first heard about it, but at the same time I am trying to focus on this football season.”
While very appreciative of the recognition, Fortner is a team player who appreciates that aspect of football the most. His love of the game stems from the team support system football provides.
“I think football is the ultimate team sport. I don’t think in any other sport you have to rely on everybody like you do in football. It only takes one person to screw up a play. In order to succeed it takes all eleven players on the field doing their job,” Fortner said. “It is also even bigger than the eleven players on the field. It takes some of the guys who don’t get to play in the game to help the guys who do play to get better and prepare for the game.”
The “team” of support extends beyond the football program and also encompasses the fans. One of Fortner’s favorite traditions of being a Colonel is singing the Centre Fight Song with his teammates to the crowd after a win.
“It is fun to see all of the fans happy after a big win. We get to celebrate along with everybody, not just us,” Fortner said.
Along with the fight song there are other traditions of the Centre football program which Fortner really enjoys participating in with his teammates. His favorite: cookies and milk.
“Every night before the game, each player gets a few cookies and a cup of milk,” Fortner said. “The coaches get an opportunity to share something with us as we are eating. It can be funny, serious, or inspirational.”
In addition to Colonel traditions, accomplishments on the field have also made Fortner’s time as a Colonel memorable. In 2011 Centre’s football team made the SCAC playoffs. Centre hosted the first game and advanced to the Sweet 16. The tournament experience that year is one of Fortner’s favorite moments from past seasons.
“We all went up in the team room and watched the selection show,” Fortner said. “We were one of the last three named. When they called out Centre we couldn’t believe we made it. We won our first game at home which was really big. The second week was Thanksgiving. Getting to spend Thanksgiving with the whole team was really cool. At Thanksgiving dinner we all went around and said what we were thankful for. We got to play at Mount Union [for the second game] and it was kind of surreal because they are always one of the two best teams in DIII. I knew we were a really good team but to actually be there playing a team you only hear about was a different experience.”
From making the playoffs as a first-year to the Colonels’ currently undefeated season, success on the field reaffirms Fortner’s love of the game and satisfaction in the whole team’s hard work ethic.
“After a win, it is good to know that all of that hard work over the past week and the past eight months in the off-season is paying off in a way that you can see it,” Fortner said.
The Colonels have finished their 2014 non-conference schedule unblemished with a record of 4-0. They will continue their season after a bye week at home against Berry College on Sat., Oct 11.
No doubt football experiences and success with his team have framed Fortner’s four years at Centre. Football recruiters were how Fortner initially learned about Centre, but he was also taken with the College as a whole.
“I was really trying to look at schools and what the school offered, not focusing solely on football,” Fortner said. “But with that being said, the coaches here were really awesome. They were some of my favorite in the recruiting process.”
Now Fortner is a Behavioral Neuroscience major and is looking at graduate school for Physical Therapy after graduation. Outside of football he also enjoys hiking and fishing. But the football coaches who he connected with upon his first and deciding visit to Centre as a recruit will continue to make a lasting impact in Fortner’s life off of the football field.
“Coach Frye is a life coach in addition to being a great football coach,” Fortner said. “He talks to us about everything. I hope that we were able to embody some of his teachings.”