For Kalib and Liam Fortner, a journey that began with flag football and back-to-back state championships will continue next year at West Point.
The Central High School seniors are twin brothers who were born 17 minutes apart. Earlier this year, both received offers to play football at the U.S. Military Academy, the prestigious service academy that prepares cadets to serve as Army officers.
The twins have shared their meals, their clothes and their rooms all their lives, and Liam said they never really thought about attending different universities. Attending West Point together, he said, means that “you’ve got a best friend that’s going 10 hours away with you.”
Kalib Fortner is an outside linebacker who was an all-state selection in each of the last two years, and recorded 10 sacks last year.
Liam Fortner is a wide receiver who earned all-region honors last year, and who scored four touchdowns in the Bobcats’ first two games of this season.
Coach Nick Craney said the twins are key leaders in a program that has won state championships in each of the last two seasons.
“They’re examples for the guys around them,” Craney said. “And not just visual examples but they’re vocal examples, two kids that will correct things that need to be corrected on the field and in the weight room and in the locker room.”
That leadership ability will serve them well at West Point, a program in which preparation for Division I football is combined with the intense challenges of military training and rigorous academics. After graduating from the service academy, cadets are commissioned as officers in the U.S. Army and serve for five years.
Liam said he may pursue aviation during his time at West Point, while Kalib is considering engineering.
And both brothers said the military commitment is similar to the bonds that come with playing on a football team.
“I like to fight for my brothers out here on the field,” said Kalib. “So going out and fighting for everybody in the United States, it’s an honor. And I’m really glad I get this opportunity to do that for everybody.”
Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.