Kevin Faulk and Leonard Fournette (Source: Jacques Doucet/WAFB)
CARENCRO, LA (WAFB) -
Sixteen years after playing his final season at LSU, star running back Kevin Faulk is still the school's all-time leading rusher, so he seemed like the perfect person to ask about the newest young running back for the Tigers.
From 1995-98, Faulk rushed for a whopping 4,557 yards, which is still good enough for third best in the history of the Southeastern Conference. It is even better than Auburn's iconic Bo Jackson (4,303), who played in just three fewer games than Faulk.
Faulk's decision to play for the Tigers was without question a major game changer. The LSU program was in the tank, having suffered through six straight losing seasons and firing its last two head coaches (Mike Archer and Curley Hallman) before his arrival. Tiger Stadium was Dead Valley, with 30,000 empty seats not being unusual on a Saturday night.
With "all eyes on three," LSU returned to the national polls and won bowl games under new, very popular head coach Gerry Dinardo. No moment was sweeter than upending Steve Spurrier and No. 1 Florida 28-21 in Baton Rouge during the 1997 season. Faulk actually said he was a big fan of Spurrier when he was in high school in Carencro and was heavily considering playing for the Gators.
However, those thoughts changed with the birth of his daughter, Tanasha. There was no way he was leaving her behind. Faulk added he still receives copies of the Sports Illustrated issue that was printed following that epic upset. It features him and LSU on the front cover. Tiger fans still want it and the headline "Later Gators" autographed.
So, with that in mind, along comes LSU's new, incredibly touted freshman running back Leonard Fournette. He has been the called the most highly-coveted Tiger since Faulk made his pledge to the purple and gold nearly two decades ago. Faulk took time on Saturday to give his take on the former St Augustine superstar.
What's your feeling on Leonard Fournette? What have you seen from this young man?
"First off, one of the best running backs I've ever seen was Cecil Collins - power, speed, balance - this kid pretty much has the same thing," Faulk said. "You can see him bouncing off tackles. That just goes to show you his power and speed at the same time. Plus, the speed to break away from people. He's got all of that in one package. Every running back has good eyes, but it's also a feel. You know where you're going before the play is started."
Are you worried about the pressure on a guy like that? Because now, we have Twitter and so much more social media and journalistic media than when you played.
"I kind of got a good idea who Leonard is, how Leonard came up, who Leonard's parents are and how they have raised him and brought him up. In my eyes, he's going to have no problem with that. He's handled it well so far," Faulk stated.
When he comes out and says, "I want to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman," do you like that confidence? Or do you worry and say, "Whoa, maybe you're saying too much?"
"It's not a cocky confidence, just confidence in his ability. And what happened two years ago? [Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman as a redshirt freshman] makes it relative now. He sees that. He wants to attack that goal. So, if that's his goal and he's not cocky confident, I'm cool with it," Faulk explained.
Have you guys visited and gotten to know each other a little bit?
"We have visited and gotten to know each other a little bit. My thing is you have enough on your plate already. I'm not the type of person that's going to try to overshadow what you've already got. You are an outstanding young man. And we talk when we see each other. Last week at the football camp, I talked to him a little bit. Last thing I told him was, 'All you want to do is play football right now, right? That's it! That's all you want to do. All that hype stuff, it's cool. You want it. But at the same time, you're like all I want to do is play football,'" Faulk added.
What's the biggest adjustment to the SEC?
"The biggest adjustment is everyone is fast. The speed of the game is much faster. And at the same time, you're splitting time. I was splitting carries with Kendall Cleveland, Rondell (Mealey). Having fun, not worried about stats and yards. Just trying to fit in with the program," Faulk said.
[Is it] harder to turn the corner?
"Oh yeah. The MOST noticeable thing was trying to turn the corner and out run a linebacker," Faulk answered.
So to your point, he may have to split time. They've got Terrence Magee and they've got Kenny Hilliard. He may not get 20 [or] 30 carries a game.
"That's the way modern day running backs are now. You don't get 20 [or] 30 carries a game now - maybe Adrian Peterson and a couple of other guys. You see guys splitting time. And you never know what's going to happen during the course of a season. If he's hot, I'm sure they're going to leave him in the game. Whoever is hot - Hilliard, Magee. That's just what you do when you go to a big time program like LSU. You have to understand. There's other athletes there," Faulk explained.
Kevin Faulk went on to a 13-year career with the New England Patriots. He played in five Super Bowls and won three of them. He now is a wide receivers coach for his beloved Carencro High School Bears.