LSU freshman RB Leonard Fournette looks to 'wow' fans

LSU freshman RB Leonard Fournette looks to 'wow' fans

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - While many freshmen at LSU are struggling with their confidence and trying to find their way, running back Leonard Fournette is already the big man on campus.

"When I first saw him from a distance, I'm like, 'That's Leonard Fournette, the running back?' I'm like, 'Nah, no running back is that big,'" said senior defensive end Jermauria Rasco. "At the end of the day, I'm glad he's here."

"It was July 16, 2013. We're here for the LSU camp. That's my first time seeing him in person," freshman quarterback Brandon recalled. "I was like, 'This guy is my height, but 235 pounds' and once I saw him play, saw him perform, I could see why he is the number one player and why he is coming here. He's doing some unbelievable things in practice. He's a beast."

Fournette has made big projections since making his pledge to LSU.

"I'm planning on winning a Heisman my freshman year and hopefully, a BCS championship. I can handle it," he said.

However, Fournette's approach continues to be one of confidence, not cockiness.

"No, I'm not big-headed. I've always been humble and that's something I'm going to continue to do. My mother is a churchgoing woman and she texts me scripture every night. 'Stay humble, keep God first and everything is going to be alright.'"

The legend has been building for quite some time.

"The first time me and Coach Frank [Wilson], I think it was my ninth grade year…He came and said, 'Let's keep up the good work' and from there on, our relationship took off. Got better and better every year," Fournette explained.

Fournette's high school coach made a powerful prediction.

"This is the only thing I know…He'll do three more years and he'll be a first round draft pick," said Cyril Crutchfield, head football coach at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. "No doubt about it."

Those who have covered football in Louisiana for decades hardly disagree.

"If you had money to bet, there's only three players out there that have been all chips in, every nickel I have," said football analyst Mike Detillier. "Peyton Manning coming out of Isadore Newman, Ed Reed out of Destrahan and Fournette out of St. Aug. He's that good."

Fournette has not only triggered a passionate fan base, but also a nation, as in Buga Nation.

"Being united generates attitude. Not for myself but everyone can use it," Fournette answered when asked, 'What is Buga?'

He's got more than 22,000 followers on Twitter and it seems like that many college coaches missed out on his services.

"He's a fine young man," said Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama. "We'd love to have him on our team and we wish him very well at LSU."

LSU's all-time leading rusher can certainly relate to the hype, even if he comes from a much different generation.

"All that hype stuff is cool," said former LSU running back Kevin Faulk. "You want it, but at the same time, you know what? I'm just ready to play some football."

There were no text messages being exchanged during Faulk's senior year at Carencro High School. However, like with Fournette, college football's biggest names were certainly calling.

"At the same time, you had Lou Holtz, Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier. In those final days, you kind of have your mind set, where between two…" Faulk said.

"I was going back and forth in my head…" Fournette stated.

"Just going back and forth, going back and forth…" Faulk added.

"Bama, LSU, Bama, LSU…" Fournette said.

"Florida and LSU…" Faulk said.

"Just overall, LSU and Bama," Fournette added.

"I was a Steve Spurrier fan (laughs). Something in your mind, something in your heart is going to trigger it and you know," Faulk explained.

"LSU was the best school for me," Fournette said.

"Probably one of the best running backs I've ever seen was Cecil Collins. Put power, speed and balance. This kid has pretty much the same thing," Faulk stated.

Faulk said Fournette will face many of the same freshman challenges he battled roughly two decades ago.

"The biggest adjustment was just understanding that everyone is fast. The most noticeable thing was turning the corner and trying to outrun a linebacker," Faulk remembered.

"Hole can be this wide (gestures with hands spread apart). Close in an amount of seconds," Fournette described.

"At the same time, you're splitting time. I was splitting time with Kendall Cleveland, Rondell [Mealey]. Just having fun, not worrying about yards, just trying to adapt and fit in with the program. If he's hot, I'm pretty sure they're going to leave him in the game. If Magee's hot, they're going to leave him in the game. Hilliard. That's just what you do when you go to a big time program like LSU. You have to understand there are other athletes there," Faulk explained.

Fournette said he's chosen to wear No. 7, to represent New Orleans' 7th Ward. Last fall, he and his younger brother, Lanard, shared those rough memories from the neighborhood.

"We are just used to people getting shot," said Lanard Fournette. "We got a lot of family members gone."

Now that Leonard Fournette has escaped those dangerous settings, his primary focus is to capture an LSU career that fans will discuss and reflect on for years to come.

"Kind of have a good idea who Leonard is, how he's come up, who Leonard's parents are and how they raised him and brought him up," Faulk said of Fournette.

"I thank God every day because my mother, she's been there for me for so long," Fournette said.

"Outstanding young man. We talk whenever we see each other," Faulk added.

"He's a legend, so I'm trying to get where he's at. That's why I don't mind the comparison between me and him and Adrian Peterson. That's people who made it and I'm trying to get there and I love it," Fournette explained.

"The last thing I told him [was] 'All you want to do is play football right now, right?' That's it!" Faulk said.

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