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STAMFORD, Conn. - Stamford (Conn.) High linebacker Khairi Fortt stood before a packed gym at Stamford High School on Monday for two reasons. First and foremost, he was there to be honored by the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a selection to its 10th anniversary game. And secondly, he was there to utter the words many expected to hear for months. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder accomplished both on Monday to the delight of his family, friends, teammates and classmates.
Fortt, who is ranked as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com and is ranked No. 30 overall in the nation, first accepted his U.S. Army jersey and thanked many as he received an honor he never really dreamed he would receive.
"I watched the game one year but I never thought in a million years that I would be a part of it or play in it," said Fortt. "I've followed it for a few years and the fact that I'm here getting my jersey and that I'm going to be playing in it come January is unreal. It's obviously a great honor."
Fortt, who had 118 tackles as a junior, first began to believe he had a chance at being named in the game when he was invited to the U.S. Army Combine this past January.
"When I went down there and got the feel of things, I knew I had to make the game," he said. "I gave it my all and thought I did pretty well. When I heard I was selected it was an amazing feeling. I was very excited and looking forward to representing Connecticut."
Stamford (Conn.) King & Low Heywood Thomas running back Silas Redd was in attendance for Fortt's big day and the two will attend Penn State together, which was the second part of Fortt's day.
"Committing to Penn State in front of everyone who is important to me was a big deal," said Fortt who donned a Penn State hat after making the announcement to the crowd. "It's Linebacker U, it's close to home, I feel really comfortable with the coaches and the players and I just felt right there."
Fortt wasn't that high on Penn State originally but Redd helped turn him to the Nittany Lions.
"Man, he's been working me since last December," said Fortt. "Everything changed when I went and visited there in the spring. I really liked what I saw. I was pretty much sold on it but my parents wanted me to compare and see some other places and they wanted to see how things worked themselves. I think they were sold on it when they visited with me after my first trip. They saw how the coaches relate to the players."
Now the dynamic duo from Stamford is headed to State College, Pa., and they will continue to push each other.
"We are very competitive and we're always working hard and trying to outwork each other in the weight room," said Fortt. "Now we'll be able to continue that in college."
Next up for Fortt is a focus on his senior year and the goal of earning a fifth star in the Rivals.com database.
"I want that fifth star," he said with a smile. "No one from Connecticut has ever gotten one and I'd love to be the first. I got injured a few weeks ago but I will be 100 percent for sure by the week of the game and I am looking forward to competing against the best of the best."
And to do so, Fortt feels there's no other place than the U.S. Army Bowl.
"It's still the best and biggest game out there," he said. "I had a choice, I could have gone to Under Armour's game, but this game has the prestige and has had so many great players. The best players are still going to this game and for me it was an easy choice."