The Terps pulled an offensive center out of Ohio last year in Mason Zimmerman (Anthony Wayne/Whitehouse, Ohio), and now they’re after another one in the 2016 class. On Feb. 19, Maryland and new Toledo area recruiter Lyndon Johnson extended an offer to 6-foot-5, 280-pound three-star Luke Fortner from Sylvania Northview High (Sylvania, Ohio).
“It was really an out-of-nowhere offer, but I’m not complaining,” laughed Fortner, who previously held verbals from Kentucky, Toledo, Akron, Cincinnati, Marshall and Western Michigan and is hearing from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue and others. “I’d never talked to Coach Johnson before, but he messaged me and I gave him a call, and he told me, ‘Congratulations, you have an offer from Maryland.’ It was pretty exciting; it was my first Big Ten offer.”
And it’s that latter status that has Fortner’s attention. Although he’s not discriminating conferences per se, he’s grown up in Big Ten territory and admitted he’d like to play against that type of competition.
“I can’t say for sure what [conference] I want to play in, but the Big Ten, I definitely wouldn’t complain about that,” Fortner said. “I mean, that’s what I watch a lot – Big Ten football. It’s a great opportunity for me.”
Besides the conference affiliation, though, Fortner is still learning about the Maryland program. He’s unaware of the school’s academics, and didn’t watch UMD on TV much last year either.
“I know it’s a big Under Armour school, which is really cool. Their uniforms are awesome,” Fortner said. “And I know it’s near Washington, D.C., and there’s a lot of [job/internship] opportunities around there. I’m looking to get out there [to Maryland] if not in the spring, then the summer. I definitely want to visit, though. I’ve only ever been on the East Coast for a vacation to Maine and North Carolina, so I’ve never been to Maryland before. It should be fun.”
In the meantime, Fortner will begin developing a relationship with Johnson. The Ohio lineman said, based off their one conversation, the Terps’ linebackers’ coach was “cool to talk to.”
“It was mostly just introductory stuff, but he was easy to get along with and I enjoyed our conversation,” Fortner said. “He said he was new to the area, and then we talked about grades and things like that. He said he’d be out here in the spring and hopefully would meet me in person then.”
Well before Johnson treks out to Ohio, Fortner will begin checking out various college campuses. He’s already seen Northwestern, Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue, while he has return trips scheduled to KU (Feb. 21) and Northwestern coming up.
“I liked Michigan State a lot, and I really liked Kentucky, and Illinois is up there too,” Fortner said. “I’m real comfortable at both Kentucky and Illinois, just being on campus and with their coaches. Northwestern is another school I liked, just being in the Chicago area.”
Although it’s still early in the recruiting process, Fortner does have three initial standouts. For the time being, he said the Terps, Wildcats and Illini have his attention.
“I’d say Illinois, Kentucky and Maryland are three schools definitely on my radar,” Fortner said. “Illinois, I went to that junior day and the coaches were easy to talk to and the campus was great. Kentucky, it’s just such a comfortable and open place. Some schools are up-tight, but Kentucky definitely wasn’t. And Maryland, it’s a Big Ten school and it sounds like a great place.”
Fortner won’t be selecting a school anytime soon, however. He said the plan is to send out senior film and see what other offers he can accumulate based off of that.
“I think I’ll probably commit by the end of the season or somewhere around there…. Probably not in the summer,” Fortner said. “I’m not 100 percent sure where or what I want to study, so I’ve still got to take a lot of visits. And I want to see what happens after I send out some film and see what comes of that.”
This offseason Fortner is playing basketball, in addition to his daily weight room work. He said he improved greatly on the gridiron during his junior season, and believes he’ll have a standout senior campaign as well.
“It was interesting going just one way this year since I didn’t play defense, but I thought I improved and did pretty well,” Fortner said. “I got the attitude down, going from a sophomore to a junior -- just playing with my guys and enjoying kicking butt on the O-line.
“But definitely I’ve got to work on my footwork and my punch – getting my hands in the right place at the right time.”
Fortner Pulls Terps Offer, Wants To Visit
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