LJ Fort: undrafted to starting NFL linebacker

Fort during his time at Northern Iowa

NICHOLAS SCHINDLER

Former University of Northern Iowa Panther linebacker LJ Fort has had quite the wild ride in his NFL career since going undrafted in 2012.

Fort was born in Granite City, Illinois and played his high school football in Waynesville, Missouri. While in high school he caught the eye of several Division 1 schools and accepted a chance to play for coach Mark Farely at UNI. He was a three year starter for the Panthers and was named to the second

Missouri Valley in 2010. In 2011 he was much improved and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He was even a finalist for the NCAA Defensive Player of the Year Award.

After his excellent college career, Fort still did not get drafted in the NFL but that did not stop him from trying to play in the league. He was signed by the Cleveland Browns in 2012 and played in all 16 games his rookie year. His rookie year he recorded one interception, one sack and 20 tackles. He only spent one

year with the Browns and he has been with seven different teams since.

Fort signed a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos in 2013 before being waived in August of 2014. He signed another one-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks, but as a fullback rather than linebacker. The Cincinnati Bengals signed Fort in November of 2014 and released him in April of the following year. After making appearances for the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, Fort signed with the Baltimore Ravens in September of 2019. He earned more playing time for Baltimore due to injuries of other players and played well enough to earn a two-year contract as a starting line- backer for the Ravens.

Fort has had a long career for many different teams. After going undrafted and playing for six different teams, he has finally found a stable role for an NFL team. He has played well so far this year in Baltimore, including returning a fumble for a touchdown in their week one game against the Cleveland Browns. He looks to be a part of a Ravens team that could potentially be a Super Bowl contender this season.