In a stunning rejection of sports-minded smarty pants everywhere, Leonard Fournette apparently will play in Saturday night’s LSU-Eastern Michigan game.
And the game after that.
And the season after that.
This is good if you love LSU football since Fournette may well be, well, the best Tiger football player since a certain Halloween ghost wearing No. 20 was weaving through Ole Miss tacklers in the late 1950s. At least.
He may be the best ever at LSU. He may be the best ever in the Southeastern Conference. If Billy Cannon remains the player by which all Tiger players have been judged these last 5½ decades, then Georgia’s Herschel Walker is the player by which all SEC footballers have been judged the last 35 years.
Walker this week said Fournette is better than he was. Exceptional humility by the great Walker, and equally exceptional praise.
He’s probably just flattering Fournette. But there’s a chance he’s foreshadowing something special.
That’s what Fournette is. Special. A generational player. A gridiron Renoir. Caruso in cleats.
But what’s happening to Fournette this week has been appalling.
On Fournette’s Twitter page are the words “SavageSeason.” That’s appropriate.
There have been calls from media types coast to coast for Fournette to skip his junior season to sit out until he’s eligible for the 2017 NFL draft. The NFL stipulates you must be three years removed from high school before you are draft eligible.
Some think Fournette should buck or try to blow up the system, like Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett did a little over a decade ago.
That worked out well. Clarett got kicked off his team and wound up in prison. Now he travels the country speaking to football players (LSU has been one of his stops) urging impressionable young men not to make the mistakes he did.
Good for Clarett. And good for Fournette that he appears to be just about as well put together mentally and emotionally as he is physically.
“I will never jump ship…” Fournette tweeted Tuesday as the “Sit, Leonard” talk reached full song. “I’m drowning with my brothers.”
And this Wednesday: “Never get lost in this fame stuff, keep God first and everything else will follow.”
It may seem hypocritical that Fournette is required to wait three years for his NFL and endorsement riches while a fellow LSU athlete like freshman basketballer Ben Simmons is expected to leave after his one and only year in Tigertown, projected to be an NBA lottery pick.
The difference are the games. All you need to know is Fournette’s game requires heavy body armor and Simmons’ does not.
Funny, but while media types clamor for Fournette to buck the system, football people do not.
Walker said he shouldn’t rush to the NFL. Fellow New Orleans running back Marshall Faulk said Fournette would be foolish to sit out the 2016 season.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, an Ohio State quarterback in his day, said Fournette and Adrian Peterson — Fournette is so often compared to the Minnesota Vikings star that he could be his body double — are the best running backs he has seen in 20 years. But that doesn’t mean a system should be scrapped just for his incomparable talent.
“I think the three-year rule in football because of the physical pounding” is good, Herbstreit said. “You’re talking about men and boys. I think once every 10 years you’re going to get a Leonard Fournette, and that’s it. So I don’t think it’s worth changing an entire system because of Leonard Fournette.
“If you open that door, you’re going to have a lot of guys sprinting out the door after a year or two years, and you’re not going to hear from them ever again. Because they’re not Leonard Fournette, but they think they are, and the agent’s going to tell them they are. It’s a huge mistake to even have a conversation about this.”
As for Saturday’s game, well, “game” may be a bit strong. A game is defined as “a competitive activity.”
This will not be that.
ESPN runs 10,000 simulations of each week’s college games to come up with both team’s probability of victory. The results have LSU winning 99.6 percent of the time against EMU.
Makes you wonder what scenario they envisioned for the 0.4 percent of the time Eastern Michigan pulled the upset. A Bayou Corne-like sinkhole swallowing the LSU sideline? A rogue asteroid? Bad boudin?
After Fournette has someone taste his food for him, he could go out and devour the LSU single-game rushing record of 250 yards in 2004 by Alley Broussard against Ole Miss. The only question: Will he get enough carries to do the job before retiring for the night?
But make no mistake. Fournette will return.
And the savage season will go on.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.