Leonard Fournette is back to his old self.
On Wednesday, Fournette returned to his old stomping grounds, too.
The former LSU running back and New Orleans native celebrated his 22nd birthday and his new endorsement deal with Under Armour with a pep rally at his alma mater, St. Augustine High School.
Under Armour, the mega sports clothing and apparel company that he signed with Wednesday, threw the party in St. Aug’s gymnasium. The Purple Knights Marching 100, the school’s band, welcomed the running back into a filled second-floor gym, and Fournette delivered a 20-plus minute speech during a presentation in front of students and teachers, reminiscing about the old days at the school.
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“I was a handful,” he said laughing. “Suspended and stuff.”
Fournette began what he says will be a yearly tradition, presenting five St. Aug students, administrators, coaches or teachers with $1,000 in Under Armour merchandise and a trip to see him play in the NFL.
The “BUGA 5” are selected by Fournette and represent those who exemplify the traits of Fournette’s “Being United Generates Attitude” mantra. He presented five of his former coaches and teachers with the “BUGA 5” on Wednesday, and then spoke to the football team, calling them his motivation and “second family.”
“It brought back a lot of memories,” Fournette said after the ceremony, speaking in the school’s tiny weight room, St. Aug football players hanging on his every word. “I played with a lot of these guys. They were on the same team with me. It’s a blessing. It’s crazy seeing these dudes.”
The three scouts represented the Jets, Rams and Titans.
Fournette's multi-year deal with Under Armour is "one of the most valuable endorsement contracts ever for an NFL rookie," ESPN.com reported Wednesday.
Fournette, projected as a top-15 pick in the draft, has spent the past several weeks training for pre-draft events at the Pensacola, Florida, branch of EXOS, a company specializing in readying NFL-bound college players for the pros. He’s fully recovered from the sprained ankle that forced him to miss five games of his junior season in 2016, his father, Leonard Sr., said.
He’s begun to shed the weight he gained while shelved during the injury, working at EXOS with a running backs coach and a strength/conditioning coach.
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“He’s lost 15 pounds,” Leonard Sr. said.
Fournette is down to 227 pounds, about two pounds shy of his goal of 225, and he’s run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash during training, his father said.
The 40-yard dash and bench press are on Fournette’s mind as he trains for the NFL combine, practicing drills twice a day in preparation for the event.
“A lot of people don’t think I’m fast,” Fournette said. “We’ll see.”
Fournette will participate in every event at the combine, he said. The combine is scheduled for Indianapolis on Feb. 28-March 6. It’s an important event for college players to show their skills just three months before the draft, and Fournette is out to prove that he’s not just big.
“Because of my size,” he said when asked why people would doubt his speed. “By them watching me, like a lot of people say, it doesn’t look like I’m really moving fast. Just want to prove everybody wrong.”
Fournette said he hasn’t spoken to representatives from any NFL teams. He’s been too busy training along side former LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith.
Beckwith is training and rehabbing at the same facility. The Clinton native suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Tigers’ loss to Florida.
Texas running back D’Onta Foreman is also training at the facility.
“I’m just preparing for all of the (combine) drills,” Fournette said, “getting in shape every day, working that body out more and more to get it where I need it to be so I can be at my full potential.”
Running a “4.4 flat, 4.3” in the 40-yard dash, he said.