Leonard Fournette's mother texted him a scripture passage before LSU's win over Ole Miss on Saturday night.
Lori Fournete knew her son was still battling a lingering ankle injury that kept him out of three of LSU's first six games of the season.
"It told me to keep faith and not worry about my injury," Leonard said of the scripture passage. "That’s what I did."
Fournette ran for 284 yards, a single-game school record, in the 38-21 win over Ole Miss. He spoke to reporters afterward, meeting with local media for the first time since the day Les Miles was fired, Sept. 25.
Fournette discussed that lingering injury - it's actually a bone bruise - and explained that he ran for so many yards despite being "out of shape."
He touched on the upcoming game against Alabama and his frustration over people comparing him and backup Derrius Guice. Finally, Fournette suggested that some wanted him to sit out the rest of his junior season and prepare for the NFL draft. He declined.
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First game back, and can’t get much bigger than what you had, right?
To be honest, it was one of the hardest seasons for me, especially dealing with this injury, still dealing with it right now. But my mother texted me scripture or whatever. It told me to keep faith and not worry about my injury. That’s what I did.
You feel like the big plays were coming in waves?
It’s something that all great players do: Before the play starts, they picture themselves breaking away and doing long runs. That’s basically what I had in my mind.
You ran over that kid (Ole Miss' Deontay Anderson) on the swing pass. Can you talk about that play?
At the end of the day, those licks hurt. I’d rather hit him than him hit me at the end of the day.
You didn’t look like a guy running on a bum ankle. They didn’t catch you.
Actually, everybody’s saying that, but I’m out of shape, too. I’m, like, 230 to 233 right now, so, over these two weeks, man, getting myself back in shape. Also, rehabbing my ankle and getting into it.
Many LSU fans probably came to Tiger Stadium on Saturday night with a question: How healthy …
So, 284 yards and out of shape?
Every two runs, I was done with. I’m telling (backup Darrel Williams), "Darrel, get in the game."
What does it mean to set the single-game rushing record?
Privilege for, not just me, but for my O-line too. Without those guys, especially the receivers during the back end, it wouldn’t be possible.
Do you have a favorite of your three TD runs?
Nah, I was just tired. My main thing was not to get caught because if I was going to get caught, coach (Jabbar) Juluke is going to raise hell.
You haven’t played a game since Ed Orgeron took over. How tough was it to be out the last couple of weeks?
Like I said, it was very hard, especially by the offense putting up so many points and just knowing what I can do, contribute to the team. Also it’s a learning point, too. I have to encourage those guys. Me and coach Juluke just helped Derrius and Darrel, with the pass protection, being more patient in practice. While I was rehabbing, I was also trying to coach, too.
What’s it been like the last two weeks seeing the offense come together, and what were you thinking when you got back on the field?
It was hard, man. I mean, throughout my entire career playing football, since I was young, I never dealt with an injury, especially with this bone bruise in my ankle. … It’s just aggravating.
Don’t get me wrong – I was happy for (the team), too, but also kind of discouraged because I wasn’t out there playing. But at the end of the day, I was so excited for them. I mean, I was probably happier for them than their own mothers because I know what they go through and I know that if they were at any other school, (Guice and Williams would) be starters.
What will two weeks do for you before Bama?
Get my body right.
What’s your strategy for the Bama game?
Hey, I’m not a coach. You’ve got to ask them.
How much has the offense changed since you’ve been gone?
A lot. D.J. (Chark) was wide open. Just the vibe of the offense and knowing we have those playmakers on our team to make those catches. Malachi (Dupre) stepping up, Travin (Dural). D.J. Chark.
The funny story about D.J. Chark … my freshman year, it was me, Brandon (Harris), Donnie Alexander and him. We were all roommates, and he was the only person not starting, not playing, in the room. We kind of teased him. That’s what made him work harder, and now it’s coming to life for him.
Why have y’all had so much success under Orgeron in the second half (outscoring opponents 73-7)?
You don’t win games in the first quarter, not the second, not halftime, not third. You win it in the fourth quarter. The way our program is set up; we’re built to do tough things in tough times. That’s what it is.
How does your ankle feel now?
It’s all right. I still have to deal with the injury off and on. Just rehabbing it.
Remember the LSU-Ole Miss series, when the game meant the world to college football and to t…
How much different is your offense from the one that lost at Alabama last year?
Our confidence is high. Y’all see what Alabama is doing to teams, man. … Reuben Foster is being the leader on the team. He’s doing a great job with him. Also, their coach. (We have to) come out there, no penalties and be mentally physical.
That’s the big game, right?
We’re not going to just put all of our cookies in one jar for one team. We play a lot of ranked teams coming up. We’ve got to treat everybody the same.
But that one is special?
It is. Most definitely. They knocked us off (last year).
You give a game ball to Orgeron because this was his old team?
Nah. He didn’t care. Coach O just wanted to win, man. He told us our back is against the wall; what are we going to do?
Did you know you were approaching the record?
Nah. I didn’t. I didn’t know I had all those yards, to be honest.
Who told you?
(Sports information director) Michael Bonnette. He was like, "Man, you’re killing them out there." I said, "How many yards I have?" He was like, "200-something." I was surprised.
We haven’t spoken to you since Les Miles’ firing. What’s changed around here?
You can tell just the vibe, man. Every day, we still talk about coach Miles. His personality, it’s different, especially we just miss hearing his voice, him being around, but I think Coach O is doing a great job dealing with this generation. Times have changed. He’s trying to fix his ways to help us out. That’s what’s helping the team out.
Does he light a match under you?
He tries, but I really don’t need it. At the end of the day, he always tells me, "We’re riding on you right now. We’re counting on you." Just, when I came back to practice Monday, he was whispering Monday, "You sure you’re healthy, sure you’re straight?" I was like, "Yeah, Coach." My ankle was getting better.
Did that make you mad, him asking you?
The only thing that made me mad was when people tried to compare me and Guice. Guice is a great back. With any team, he’d do the same thing he’s doing right now. That’s my little brother. I hated that. I don’t want no competition between us. I treat everybody equal, and they treat me equal.
You mentioned it being a bone bruise. Is that from Auburn or Wisconsin?
It’s from … when I got hurt during (preseason camp). It was a bone bruise, high and low ankle sprain. I had all in one. It never really healed. I tried to play with it.
Were you pointing to this game as the game you would make your comeback?
Nah. Not really. I didn’t know what to expect. It’s pretty crazy how God works in mysterious ways. Without him, I’m nothing. When I tell you it was one of the hardest three weeks of my life … man, it’s hard for me.
It’s very hard for me, especially when everybody wanted me to sit out. I could have, but when you really love football, it’s not about sitting out. I love competing, love going out there with Jamal Adams, guys each and every day. I feed off them.
When I was hurt on the sideline watching practice, I’m like, "I’ve got to get better." I was working hard. From the time I got out of class, until practice ended, I was working out.