Skip to main content

Jaguars' Trent Baalke and Doug Pederson Weigh In on Luke Fortner’s Rookie Season

The 2022 third round pick played a significant role for an improved Jaguars offensive line.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

When Brandon Linder announced his retirement in March of 2022, the Jaguars needed a player who would step in and provide stability to the center position. Veteran Tyler Shatley was the one many expected to fill this role, but instead it was rookie Luke Fortner who stole the show.

The third round pick out of Kentucky played 1,121 snaps, accumulating 4 penalties and only allowing 1 sack according to Pro Football Focus. Fortner didn’t just stabilize the position, he vastly outperformed expectations, quickly establishing himself as a long-term solution at the position.

As a result, Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke expressed optimism on the young center’s long-term prospects.

“I think what you saw is a guy that’s got a chance to have an outstanding career in the National Football League,” Baalke said. 

“He’s highly competitive, he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s got the size, he’s got the skillset to be a very good player in this league for a long time. To come into this league and play in the middle of the offense, play the center position with all that has to go into it mentally that goes into playing that position. To do as well as he did is a credit to him and the work that he puts in. He’s a pro’s pro at a very young age, I look at him as an old soul. I think the best is in front of him.”

Head coach Doug Pederson shared a similar sentiment, noting Fortner’s ability to quickly grasp information and communicate it to his teammates.

“It’s a tall order from the standpoint of being able to come in here and start as rookies,” Pederson said on Monday. “Especially Luke, with the amount of information and communication that takes place as a center. He is only going to get better and I’m really comfortable with him, it’s the reason why we drafted him, because he played that way for us. Excited for his future moving forward.”

Fortner’s excellent play in year one cemented his place on the Jaguars offensive line moving forward. General manager Trent Baalke made clear that the future will be very bright for the young center.

“Well, I think again, we spent a lot of time evaluating these guys. Coach Rauscher [Offensive Line Coach Phil Rauscher] went to the school and did a school visit with him,” Baalke said. 

“His O-Line coach at Kentucky used to work for us when I was in San Francisco, so we had some real inside knowledge of the type of guy that we were going to get. He’s been everything and more that we’ve imagined. He is, I can’t emphasize enough, their ability to come in at a young age and be a pro from day one. Sometimes it takes these guys a little bit to learn how to be a pro, what it all involves. This game is a lot more mental than it is physical a lot of times. For him to step into that role and excel the way he did, the future is very bright for him.”