Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was in a playful mood apparently when he phoned Tech tackle Rashad Fortenberry one morning, not quite five weeks ago.
Kingsbury had good reason to be lighthearted.
“When Kliff called me that morning, it was around 9,” Fortenberry said. “He was like, ‘Rashad ... Are you ready to win a Big 12 championship?’
“All I could do was smile and thank God that I’m back.”
The Big 12’s approval of Fortenberry’s medical hardship waiver took him out of limbo and put him back on the team for 2014. Just like that, the Red Raiders had a returning starter at right tackle. Just like that, Fortenberry could stop preparing for Tech’s pro-day workout for departing seniors and start working toward a second senior season.
“I’m happy to be back,” he said. “It’s a great experience to be back. I can work on my game more. I’m just blessed to have another year.”
Free from a string of injuries that beset him in the fall of 2012 and the spring and summer of 2013, Fortenberry put together a solid season last fall, starting all 13 games at right tackle.
Though Tech line coach Lee Hays has toyed with the idea of moving around left tackle Le’Raven Clark to accommodate junior-college signee Dominique Robertson, more likely the Red Raiders’ starting tackles next season will be the ones they had last season: Clark on the left, Fortenberry on the right.
The difference is Tech coaches know what they have in the 6-foot-5, 294-pound Fortenberry and Fortenberry knows the ropes, having held his own on a weekly basis in the Big 12.
“Last year, I was just getting my feet wet,” he said. “I’m more experienced this year. I think it’s going to be a great year for me.”
Fortenberry had the year restored because he was sidelined for all but three games early in 2012. He was out of eligibility before Tech filed paperwork on his behalf and the ruling came back in his favor.
In between, he couldn’t work out with the team, Hays said.
“I was running 40s, getting ready for pro day,” Fortenberry said. “Now I’m trying to work back in shape. I don’t keep myself in shape only running the 40.”
Fortenberry said he can operate more quickly now, just based on a year’s game experience in the system.
The ruling came a week before spring practice started, so Fortenberry will get to participate in all 15 sessions.
As for what Hays has put on Fortenberry’s to-do list, Fortenberry said, “He just tells me to work on my hands and feet, get more physical, run downfield more. All that kind of stuff.”
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