NEW YORK CITY – Former Cal linebacker Khairi Fortt was selected Saturday by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft with the 126th pick overall. Fortt, who played one season at Cal in 2013 after transferring from Penn State where he played in 2010 and 2011, was the second former Cal player selected in the 2014 NFL Draft to extend its string of having two players in the first four rounds of the draft to five consecutive seasons. Tight end Richard Rodgers was chosen by the Green Bay Packers in the third round Friday with the 98th pick overall.
“Right now I just couldn’t be happier,” Fortt said. “I’m just happy I finally got picked, and I can’t wait to get down to Louisiana and start working out with the team and getting to know the guys.”
Fortt was one of 12 national semifinalists for the 2013 Butkus Award® at the collegiate level for the honor given annually to the nation’s top linebackers at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. Fortt, who played in and started the first nine games of the 2013 season before missing the final three games of the campaign due to injury, recorded 64 tackles to rank third on the team after leading the squad for most of the season. He was 18th in the Pac-12 with an average of 7.1 stops per game. An early entry for the 2014 NFL Draft with one season of collegiate eligibility remaining, Fortt added 3.5 tackles for loss (-5 yards) and 0.5 sacks (-1 yard) in 2013. In his two seasons at Penn State, Fortt played in 22 contests and compiled career totals of 50 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss (-23 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-16 yards).
The first three rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City were conducted Thursday and Friday with the draft concluding Saturday with the fourth through seventh rounds starting at 9 a.m. PT. Visit CalBears.com for coverage of the selections of former Cal football players. ESPN and NFL Network are televising the event live with online live streaming also available at nfl.com/live.
Fortt and Rodgers are two of three former Cal players along with DT Deandre Coleman that were among the top 2014 NFL Draft prospects to attend the NFL Combine in February. Other former Cal players who completed their collegiate eligibility in 2013 and are eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft that have attended local pro days hosted by both Cal and the San Francisco 49ers include RB Brendan Bigelow, OL Mark Brazinski, PK Vincenzo D’Amato, CB Kameron Jackson, LB/DE Chris McCain and DT Viliami Moala.
In addition to draft selections, many players who are not drafted typically join NFL rosters shortly after the NFL Draft by signing undrafted free agent contracts.
Khairi Fortt Conference Call TranscriptOn the phone call from the Saints
“I was at home with a couple of my friends from high school back in Stamford [Connecticut] with my parents as well. We were just hanging out and I got a call from Texas. I knew the New Orleans Saints were up so I thought it was probably like [Cal teammate] Darren Ervin’s father from Cal. I picked up and it was the defensive coordinator of the Saints. He said that they were going to pick me up in about 10 minutes. He said congratulations. I really didn’t know what to say. I had been watching the first, second, third and all the way until near the end of the fourth rounds, and I didn’t go in the first 20 picks [of the fourth]. I was level-headed but a little down about it, but right now I just can’t be more happy. I’m just happy I finally got picked, and I can’t wait to get down to Louisiana and start working out with the team and getting to know the guys.
“I heard about that. I wasn’t watching it because I was in the moment and so excited about everything [with my draft] but my parents came outside and said that Kevin got picked up. I thought that was crazy to have both of us linebackers from Connecticut that we both go around the same time to great organizations. It’s just a blessing from God that we get these opportunities. I know we’re both going to work hard and represent Stamford, Connecticut, the little town that we are. I just can’t wait.”
“I would say life doesn’t always go as planned because you never can plan life. I feel like you’re always going to have adversities. I thought that going to Penn State was an experience, everything was a learning experience. You learn from every part, every second that I was at Penn State and at Cal – two different schemes, two different styles of play, a bunch of coaches. Now that I made it I feel like all those experiences have helped me be the man I am today. Just to get picked up by the Saints I’m elated now.”
“No, I always had faith in God that He would put me somewhere. What’s meant to be is meant to be. I expected that and now that I got picked up I can see this was His plan.”
“It’s going to be great, because you have guys there that have experience that I can learn from. Having another Cal player there in Cam Jordan … he actually took me on my official visit at Cal so we kind of know each other a little bit. Going to play for a great defense and great coaches, I’m so lost for words right now. I’m still trying to process everything. I’m thinking about this call. I’m thinking about flying down there. I’m thinking about playing, wearing those colors. It’s crazy right now.”
“When I was a recruit back when I was 17 and I was going to graduate high school early. Cam and Kendrick Payne were my two hosts and took me out and everything. I actually liked Cal, but it was far away from home. It’s just kind of ironic how we ended up at the same place again. We’ll have to see if we can get some more Cal guys on the team. You know just to represent.”
“No, I haven’t. I have about 300 messages right now, but no. People are calling me as I’m talking right now. I probably will talk to him in a few days or hours. I’m just trying to take this all in right now.”
“My time at Cal went very well. Obviously it’s a lot different area than an East Coast state, definitely than Stamford, Connecticut. But I had a great time there. I loved all the moments I had with my teammates especially. The coaches were great. But obviously I moved on.
“I have three classes left to graduate and my mom is adamant. Of course she’s adamant, she went to Georgetown and Columbia. She played basketball in college so she knows the grind, but she also knows the work it takes. She told me that I would be naïve to think that football is a career, because it’s not. I could be done in three years, five years, you could be done in six years and that’s a good term but it’s not the rest of your life. That degree you’re going to have for the rest of your life, so I’m going back to get my degree maybe next spring or through the NFL CEP program, which is a new program that the NFL has in regards to graduating and finishing up school.”
“This kind of came out of left field. I don’t know if anybody has seen Draft Day and the inside scoop, but it does get a little bit crazy in how they kind of leak plays in and try not to say a lot about players so people don’t grab them. After the combine they didn’t have any contact with me or my agent about anything.”
“It is American Studies with a focus in diversity and representation. With an American Studies major you can kind of pull from every department – the social part, the science part, you can even do mathematics if you can find somewhere that you can fit that in. But I’m just worrying about this degree because I know that a Berkeley degree can take me a long way. I was talking to a couple of guys that own a couple of corporations, or CEO’s of a corporation, [and they] just look for the Berkeley degree. When I get out [of football] I was looking to get into real estate or investing in land back in California. My roommate and I Nick Forbes – we have some plans.”
“Whatever they need. This is like a job. You can be in college and get your degree in finance but end up doing just marketing. You’re not just going to say no. You just do your job and do what’s expected of you. I’m going to do that. I’m going to fit in wherever I need to fit. If they want me to play running back I’ll go carry the ball. I don’t know how my knees will hold up but I’ll do anything they want me to do to help the team out.”
► Cal has had at least two players selected in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft each of the last five years (2010-14) and at least one selected in the top three rounds each of the past eight years (2007-14), while the Golden Bears need one more player selected in 2014 to run their string of drafts with at least three picks to 10 in a row.
► Cal has had 26 first-round picks and 226 selections overall since the draft began in 1936.
► Cal has had 53 selections overall and 10 first-round picks in the last 15 drafts that have taken place beginning with the 2000 draft.
Full Khairi Fortt Bio
Khairi Fortt (ky-REE fort), LB, 6-2, 240, Stamford, CT/Penn State/Stamford HS
Fortt was one of 12 national semifinalists for the 2013 Butkus Award® at the collegiate level for the honor given annually to the nation’s top linebackers at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. Fortt played in and started the first nine games of the 2013 season at Cal in his first and only year of action for the Golden Bears after redshirting in 2012 following his transfer from Penn State just prior to training camp. Fortt, who missed the final three games of the 2013 campaign due to injury, recorded 64 tackles to rank third on the team after leading the squad for most of the season. He was 18th in the Pac-12 with an average of 7.1 stops per game. Fortt, who was an early entry for the 2014 NFL Draft with one season of collegiate eligibility remaining, added 3.5 tackles for loss (-5 yards) and 0.5 sacks (-1 yard). In two seasons at Penn State from 2010-11, Fortt played in 22 contests and compiled totals of 50 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss (-23 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-16 yards). He was invited to and participated in the 2014 NFL Pro Scouting Combine.
► Selected by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round (126th pick overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft
► Entered the 2014 NFL Draft as an underclassman, foregoing his final season of collegiate eligibility at Cal
► Registered the top highlight by a former Cal player at the 2014 NFL Pro Scouting Combine with 30 reps off 225 pounds in the bench press to rank tied for the most among linebackers, while also adding marks of 36” in the vertical jump and 10’0” in the broad jump to tie for ninth among linebackers, and a time of 4.70 in the 40-yard dash to rank 11th in his position group
► Also participated at the 2014 Cal Pro Timing Day and San Francisco 49ers Pro Day
Cal Career (2012-13)
► Started all nine games he played in during his lone campaign on the field for Cal as a fourth-year junior in 2013 before missing his final three contests due to injury
► Redshirted his first season at Cal in 2012 after transferring from Penn State on Aug. 1, 2012
► Wore No. 11 for the majority of his career but also spent time as No. 22 during his 2013 junior season due to conflicts with double numbers on special teams and spent his 2012 redshirt season as No. 13
► One of 12 semifinalists at the collegiate level for the Butkus Award® given annually to the nation’s top linebackers at the high school, collegiate and professional levels
► Started at the WILL linebacker position for all nine of the games he played in before missing the final three contests due to injury, recording 64 tackles to rank tied for third on the team, while adding 3.5 tackles for loss (-5 yards), 0.5 sacks (-1 yard) and one quarterback hurry
► Ranked 18th in the Pac-12 with an average of 7.1 tackles per game
► Led Cal in tackles through nine contests but suffered a season-ending injury in Game 9 against Arizona during a contest in which he had the second-most tackles in his Cal career with 10 and added 0.5 tackles for loss
► Registered career highs of 13 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss (career-high-tying -2 yards) and one quarterback hurry against Ohio State, with both the 13 stops and 2.0 tackles for loss also team game-highs and tied for the most by a Cal player in 2013
► Had at least three tackles in each of the seven other games he played in against Portland State (9; 0.5 TFL, -1 yard; 0.5 sack, -1 yard), UCLA (8), Oregon (7; 0.5 TFL, -2 yards), Oregon State (6), Washington (4), Washington State (4) and Northwestern (3)
► Listed as one of the “Top 10 Players Back from Injury” in the nation by Athlon prior to the season
► Missed much of the team’s spring practice sessions including the spring game due to injury
► Did not play
► Announced he was transferring to Cal from Penn State on August 1
Penn State (2010 – Spring 2012)
► Played in 22 contests with one start over two seasons for the Nittany Lions from 2010-11 after beginning his collegiate career at the school as a mid-year enrollee in January of 2010, compiling two-year totals of 50 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss (-23 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-16 yards)
► Played in every game off the bench as a 2011 sophomore, recording 33 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss (-22 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-16 yards) while posting season highs of six tackles vs. Eastern Michigan, 2.0 tackles for loss in the TicketCity Bowl vs. Houston and 1.5 sacks (-13 yards) against Iowa
► Played in nine of the Nittany Lions' 13 games as a 2010 true freshman, registering 17 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss (-1 yard)
► Recorded a Penn State career-high 11 stops and 0.5 tackles for loss (-1 yard) in the lone start of his Nittany Lions’ career against Illinois during his freshman campaign
► Finished 2012 spring practice listed as Penn State's co-starter at middle linebacker
Stamford HS (2008-09)
► Earned second-team USA Today All-American honors and was selected to play in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl following his 2009 senior season despite being slowed by injury, finishing with 63 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception which he returned 46 yards for a touchdown
► Registered his best prep numbers as a 2008 junior when he recorded 118 tackles, five forced fumbles and four interceptions to earn a spot as one of only 30 players in the nation on the U.S. Army Player of the Year Award watch list prior to his senior season
► Full name is Khairi Savid Fortt
► Born March 24, 1992
► Parents are Guy and Dr. Tabitha Fortt
► The nation's No. 5 rated prep outside linebacker in the 2010 recruiting class according to Rivals, while Scout had him at No. 11