MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For cornerback Nicktroy Fortune, the spotlight has always been on him. Fortune, who as a true freshman in 2019, joined the Mountaineers and added 17 tackles across 11 games and two starts, has grown into that fame. The now junior says that although the stats were in his favor, back then, he didn’t believe in himself. Cornerbacks assume a lot of stress when plays on the wings break down, and that directly impacted Fortune’s perceived self-worth.
He struggled with confidence that freshman season, especially when he heard fans in the stands chastising his movement following a missed tackle that resulted in a Texas touchdown.
“The lowest it got was when I was thrown in the Texas game and gave up that touchdown,” he said. “It got really low, because at that point, I was a freshman. Going to the sideline, you could hear people in the background being negative. That is the lowest it definitely got.”
He says recognizing that even the greatest players in the game have gotten beaten off their blocks took a while, but it forever shifted his perspective.
“Before, when I would get beat, I would beat myself up,” he said. “If I get beat one time, the rest of the practice would go bad, but now when I get beat, it’s like, ‘Critique myself in my head. I get criticism from my coaches on what I did wrong, and then I just go on to winning the next play.’
“The next play, I’m talking to myself as the play goes on. That’s the biggest thing, just self-evaluation and the positive instead of the negative.”
Prioritizing confidence as opposed to cockiness has been paramount in his personal growth, even outside of Milan Puskar Stadium.
“I’m not cocky at all,” he said. “I’m confident for sure. I know the ability that I have, and I’m also humble about it.”
The second he allows his self-confidence to morph into cocky behavior, the depth chart wavers. Although he has the most experience at cornerback, Fortune is also cognizant of the other players gunning for his starting spot.
“Daryl Porter, Jackie Matthews and Charles Woods, they have been doing their thing this fall,” he said. “We are really close. I feel like that is the biggest thing. We’re really close in that room. We have hung out before, so that was the biggest thing going into the fall, to make sure we had each other’s backs.”
As the cornerback most accustomed to Neal Brown’s play calling, he’s been tasked this season to mentor the new transfers and freshmen, but he never gets complacent with his leadership position.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In the off-season, Fortune has been working on being more aggressive.
“Now that it’s going into my third year, it’s just getting better,” he said. “My confidence is higher than it’s ever been, so it’s just maintaining that confidence and just perfecting myself each and every day.”
When he went home to Georgia, he worked with a personal trainer to help fine-tune his press coverage.
“Press man is the biggest thing we worked on. Not only from the open field, but also red zone. Just having good feet, good eyes, and stuff like that,” he said.
In real time, he’s frequently matched up against the WVU offensive front, who, to their own credit, never make it easy for him. He’s adopted a mentality driven by needing to outwork them, and he’s gearing up for the challenge this season.
“Isaiah Esdale, Sean Ryan, and Bryce Wheaton are the main guys I have been going against,” he said. “Going against them, it’s never a time where I go up and this might be a chill rep, so I’m cool. With them, every time I walk up or I am playing off, I know like if I don’t bring it, they are going to bring it.”