On Dec. 7, 2017 he committed to UNC. It was the bright spot in a year marred by a broken leg that required surgery in September and forced Fortin to miss the majority of his senior season.
The four-star recruit wasted no time in acclimating himself to the program, enrolling for the spring semester at the University. The move allowed him the opportunity to participate in spring practice, something that has been important in moving along his maturation process.
“Quarterback is such a mental position,” offensive guard Nick Polino said. “So freshmen, it’s hard to come in and play as a true freshman at quarterback. And I know he’s done a tremendous job of it. But it’s just the little things, and that comes with experience, like other positions.”
Fortin got some of that experience in the form of those 15 spring practices, before reporting back on Aug. 3 for preseason practice. He entered training camp fighting for third-string duties with fellow true first-year Jace Ruder and senior Manny Miles.
But on Aug. 6, the team announced the suspensions of 13 players, including quarterback Chazz Surratt, a development that altered head coach Larry Fedora’s plans. Fortin was now fighting for the backup job to junior Nathan Elliott.
His raw talent impressed junior transfer Antonio Williams, who got his first look at Fortin in training camp. Yet the running back made it clear that the young man still has a long way to go.
“Cade’s a good player, he’s got a really good arm,” Williams said. “He’s still learning the game, he’s a younger guy. I think he’s going to be very, very good.”
On Aug. 29, Fedora decided to name Fortin the second-string quarterback.
Just like that, his development was fast forwarded, culminating with his appearance against the Pirates in the team’s second game of the season, a cameo that encouraged Polino.
“He seemed poised, we moved the chains a little bit,” Polino said. “So, he did well. Especially for that was his first real taste, real game time against an actual team, not just in practice, so he handled it well.”
Fedora similarly threw out praise for his young charge’s improvement in a short time.
“He’s much more comfortable with what’s going on out there,” Fedora said. “In fall camp it was still kind of, things were happening fast. It’s starting to slow down and he’s getting a better feel for it.”
But it is important to note that his performance against ECU was a cameo. Fortin is not the starting quarterback of the team, a job firmly held by Elliott. Fedora speaks volumes about Elliott’s confidence and noted it has not wavered despite an 0-2 start.
With Surratt set to return to the sidelines on Oct. 13 against Virginia Tech, Fortin will likely slide down to the third-string gig, giving him more time to learn the craft from the sidelines, something that Williams feels will benefit the first-year.
“The process of the college game, once he gets it down, I think Cade will be a problem for a lot of people,” Williams said.
There seems to be little doubt that Fortin will likely one day be the Tar Heels’ starting signal caller. His number six will eventually line up routinely at the line of scrimmage for Fedora’s offense.
But for now he will continue to watch, learn and take his opportunities in stride.
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