Fortay brings big-time expectations home to Rutgers Lost opportunity in Miami prompts QB's return to N.J.

September 25, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

For Bryan Fortay, there was never any doubt where he would play college football.

Named to almost everyone's All-America team and rated among the nation's top high school quarterbacks his senior season, he was coveted by almost every major college. But he felt that Miami -- the training ground of Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Steve Walsh and Craig Erickson -- was the place where real quarterbacks developed.

"I was attracted to the whole concept of 'Quarterback U.,' playing for Coach [Jimmy] Johnson and the whole exposure," Fortay said. "They told me I'd be the next quarterback after Craig Erickson. It looked like a good situation."

Not quite. Fortay never got his opportunity at Miami. Now, just over a year after he lost out on the starting position at Miami to Gino Torretta, Fortay is attempting to realize his potential at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights (2-1) take on Navy (0-2) tomorrow at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

Through three games, Fortay, a junior in eligibility, has completed 40 of 80 passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns. In a 21-16 win over Pittsburgh last week, Fortay completed 14 of 27 passes for 207 yards in helping the Scarlet Knights to their first win in 10 games against the Panthers.

"I'm thankful for the chance," said Fortay, who came out of East Brunswick (N.J.) High School. "I'm surprised at the talent we have here. Everything with the program is going in the right direction and a lot of big-time guys from New Jersey are staying home."

None more big-time than Fortay. The Hurricanes were attracted to Fortay because of his impressive passing numbers in high school -- 34 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards.

When Fortay decided to attend Miami, he figured his turn would come in his junior season, after Erickson completed his career. That time came, and Fortay battled Torretta for the job during preseason practice. It was a close call, but Dennis Erickson -- who became head coach after Johnson left for the Dallas Cowboys -- gave the job to Torretta. Soon after that, Fortay was packing his bags and transferring to Rutgers, where he sat out last season.

"Gino and I battled for the job, and I felt I had won," Fortay said. "I didn't win, so I decided to come back home. I have no bitterness."

Fortay has arrived at Rutgers amid great expectations.

"This is his first opportunity," said Rutgers coach Doug Graber. "But the [New York] media has built him up to be a Heisman candidate. It put pressure on the kid, and I know it's affected him."

Fortay agreed.

"The expectations were high, probably a little unfair," he said. "We have lofty goals here, but we also have to be realistic in what we're capable of accomplishing. We're no Miami here, and we never pretended to be."

That was evident in the season opener, which Rutgers lost to Boston College, 36-20. In that one, Fortay completed 19 of 40 passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

"The Boston College game put everything in perspective," Fortay said. "We earned some respect in the Pitt game, but that doesn't erase the feeling with Boston College. We have to realize that each game is important. It's a shame we had to learn it the hard way, but it's good that we learned it early in the season."

The transfer to Rutgers hasn't prompted Fortay to alter his goals, which include leading the team to a winning record and a bowl bid. That's far from the national championship goal set each year at Miami. But, at Rutgers, whose only previous postseason appearance was in the 1978 Garden State Bowl, a bowl trip this season would suffice.

And for Fortay, that would be a step toward attaining the status many predicted for him when he came out of high school.

"The only person that's going to stop me from attaining my goals is me," Fortay said. "It's going to be hard work. But I plan on getting the job done."

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