ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When it first appeared on Instagram earlier this month, it remained hard to reconcile. When confirmed on Twitter leading up to the funeral, the reality was stunning.
Noah Fant had lost his mom unexpectedly to an illness. As someone who covers the team on a daily basis, admittedly different this season without locker room access, I was unaware Kathy Fant, who I met when Noah was drafted, was sick. Now, she was gone at age 53?
Funeral services were held in Omaha, Nebraska. General Manager George Paton, Coach Vic Fangio, Vice President of Player Development Ray Jackson, Von Miller and Drew Lock attended, a presence that moved Fant.
"Ray Jackson got everybody together and was able to get everybody to come. and that meant a lot," said Fant, one of seven children. "I just happened to be walking outside before it started and I saw then coming in and it made me tear up. It made me get emotional. It showed me how much they care about me and my family — that it's not just all business. It means a lot to me."
Zooms, as we all know, are functional. They are, though, more sterile than personal. Viewed from any perspective, this is a difficult time for Fant, made harder by going through it publicly. His composure Thursday was remarkable as he discussed Kathy Jean Fant, someone described on tribute pages as "special, amazing and always laughing."
"I was definitely a momma's boy," Fant said with a smile. "I was very close with her. I talked to her pretty much every day. We went through growing pains as mom and son growing up, but she was always there for me. I loved her, and we had a really good relationship. It's going to be a little bit different, obviously. I am good. Like I said before, just taking it a day at a time."
Fant has managed to move forward, losing himself in football and family. Not only is he attending practices, but he is impossible to miss. At 6-foot-4-inches and 250 pounds, Fant remains on the cusp of stardom.
"Noah Fant is my favorite guy on the team. I want to tell all you guys that. Noah Fant, I’m super excited about this guy,"seven-time All-Pro Von Miller said of Fant, who plans to attend San Francisco star George Kittle's Tight End U camp later this summer. "He’s buff, he’s strong. I think he’s going into year three now, and he just looks like a beast."
Fant boasts strong production. No tight end owns more receptions (192) and yards (1,235) in their first 31 games with the Broncos. And it feels only like an opening scene in a blockbuster movie. Everyone can see it. Only injuries appear to be preventing a starburst. Fant recognizes it, aims to move into the uppercrust at his position.
Competing is a way to honor his mom.
"This is one of those things that wasn’t expected to happen, but I definitely use that as motivation. The way I look at it is if I went off a cliff, how would that make my mom feel? How would that make my dad feel? They would want me to keep playing," Fant said.
"I'm not going to necessarily say that's going to push me into the upper echelon, but that's always been goal. That was always a goal when talking with my mom and my dad," Fant said. "I want to get to top five in the league. I want to be competing with [Chiefs Travis] Kelce, Kittle, [Raiders' Darren] Waller and all those guys. That's always been the goal, and that's always what I'm pushing for. The ultimate goal is to be the best in the league. We have to work to get there, and that's what I've been doing.”