CHEYENNE – Austin Fort traded
75 degrees and sunny for 5 degrees and snowy.
“It was a big shock, for sure,” Fort said about moving to Gillette from Florida. “I moved here in January and struggled with that a little bit at first.”
Football season was still months away, but the sport helped him adjust to life in Wyoming.
Fort didn’t earn the Camels’ starting quarterback job until the week before the 2012 season opener. But he made up for lost time.
He led Class 4A in passing (178.1 yards per game) and all-purpose yards (239.3) last season and earned first team all-state honors.
Shortly after, the scholarship offers started rolling in. Fort verbally committed to the University of Wyoming in mid-June.
Illinois, Colorado and Colorado State also recruited him.
“(UW is) a great fit for me and my skill set as a quarterback,” Fort said. “The offense they run was the most appealing thing to me.
“Playing in a spread offense wasn’t going to make or break my decision. There were a bunch of other factors in my decision, but the offense was one of the biggest factors.”
Gillette coach Vic Wilkerson met Fort the summer before he moved to the Cowboy State. Peter L. Fort,
Fort’s father, was interviewing for a pulmonologist position at Campbell County Memorial Hospital, and he brought Austin along for the trip.
“When his dad called to tell me that he took the job and Austin was going to be here in a couple of months, I was excited,” Wilkerson said. “You can’t coach 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. Those intangibles were exciting.”
On top of sheer size, Fort also has an insatiable desire to improve. When asked what he does well, the list is short and vague. So is the list of things he needs to improve.
“Everything,” Fort said. “I have nothing I can be satisfied with, and I’m working to get better every day.”
That’s not just lip service, Wilkerson said.
“He means it,” the coach added. “He’s always watching film and asking questions. That’s what makes him a great quarterback.”
Fort’s senior season has gotten off to a shaky start. He had to miss a season-opening, 52-12 win at Casper Kelly Walsh after being ejected from the 4A soccer state title match.
He played sparingly in the Camels’ 52-13 win over Evanston the following week. But he suffered a left ankle injury late in the second quarter of Gillette’s 16-10 win at Cheyenne Central this past Friday night and never returned.
He has rushed for 138 yards this season and passed for just 72.
The Camels will be in good hands whenever he returns, Central coach Brick Cegelski said.
“He’s got really good command of the field,” Cegelski said. “He’s able to read the defenses and knows where he’s going with the football.
“He knows where his guys are or where they’re going to be, stands tall, throws a great ball and has the ability to run.
“He’s about as complete of a package as you’re going to find.”