Tight end Fourtenbary emerging as another young weapon for the WKU offense

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Among one of Western Kentucky’s many weapons emerging on the offensive side of the ball is a long-haired, Alabama native intent on quietly doing his job and doing it to the best of his ability.

His play through 15 career games speaks for itself. And his play through three games this year seems to further indicate Kyle Fourtenbary is poised for a breakout season.

“Just wherever they need me, I’m ready to play a role wherever they need me to play,” he said. “And I’m gonna give it my 100 percent effort.”

Listed as a 6-foot-2, 240-pound tight end, Fourtenbary is more than that. He’s a throwback to a bit of a fullback/tight end hybrid that takes just as much pride in a big block as a big reception.

Fourtenbary had moments where he showcased both those abilities Saturday in a 20-17 loss at Louisville – he caught the game’s first touchdown pass, then threw a sealing block on a three-yard touchdown run by quarterback Davis Shanley around left end.

“I’d say he’s a complete tight end,” WKU tight ends coach Ryan Mahaffey said. “He’s really a guy that I feel you can line up at almost any position and he’s gonna be able to handle it mentally and physically which is unique to find in this style of offense.”

Fourtenbary was considered a three-star prospect at Opelika High School in Opelika, Ala., a 20-minute drive from the Auburn University campus. He had 28 receptions for 472 yards and six scores as an OHS senior and received scholarship offers from the Air Force, Arkansas State, Minnesota, South Alabama and Troy.

After committing to South Alabama in 2015, Fourtenbary took a trip to WKU and fell in love with the campus. Western’s tight end tradition, one that includes Jack Doyle, Mitchell Henry, Tyler Higbee and Deon Yelder, also lured Fourtenbary to the Hilltoppers.

“I think I’m more mature,” Fourtenbary said of his self from then to now. “And just understanding defenses, I feel I’ve progressed in that way. I’m just more comfortable in that role.”

After Fourtenbary redshirted in 2016 he caught eight passes for 96 yards last year. He’s already matched that reception total after three contests this season.

Mahaffey said the tight end’s emergence is a credit to his dedication on and off the field as well as due to the amount of work he’s put in at the weight room to allow his body to handle the rigors of the position.

“Next step for (Fourtenbary) is to dominate his assignment. Dominate his competition play in, play out,” Mahaffey said. “He’s playing at a really high level right now, but I think the next step for him is not just do his assignment and do it at a high level, but in a physically dominant fashion – which he’s more than capable of doing.”

With seven seconds left in the first quarter Saturday at Cardinals Stadium in Louisville, Fourtenbary found the end zone for the first time in his career. The Hilltoppers had lined up for a running play, but Fourtenbary, positioned at receiver on the left hash, noticed the safety playing well off the line of scrimmage.

He ran a hitch route. Shanley fired a strike and Fourtenbary rolled through the end zone for his first career TD reception.

It was certainly a memorable moment for the redshirt-sophomore. That doesn’t mean he’ll be pumping the breaks on trying to improve as the season rolls along.

“Every part of my game, honestly,” Fourtenbary said on what he needs to get better at. “Route running, understanding defenses, man, zone, just working on my technique with blocks and pushing ‘em off the line. Every aspect, really, I can get better at.”

— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop