Leonard Fournette

LSU running back Leonard Fournette is again one of the handful of Heisman Trophy favorites.

The list is three lines long.

Each line is a goal that Leonard Fournette hoped to accomplish at LSU, drawn up by the running back while he was a high schooler at St. Augustine.

They are personal goals, feats he challenged himself to reach, hurdles he wanted to overcome, lofty aspirations he wished to achieve. They are things he does not speak of, secrets he keeps tucked safe inside, information only his inner circle knows.

The keeper of the list is Cyril Crutchfield, Fournette’s coach at St. Augustine. He doesn’t often speak of the list. When he does, he’s careful not to reveal too much about it.

"He accomplished one of them," Crutchfield said. "There’s two other things that’s on there."

Two years into his career — and likely beginning his final season at LSU — he’s one-third of the way through the list.

Which one did he cross off? Crutchfield won’t say. It's likely reaching 1,000 rushing yards in a season, which Fournette achieved as a freshman in 2014.

As for the second, Crutchfield has, in the past, called it a “lofty” yardage mark against a particular team: Alabama. The third is anyone’s guess. The smart money’s on the Heisman Trophy.

Before last season's game against Alabama, Crutchfield predicted Fournette would accomplish the final two goals. It seemed like a smart bet at the time. Fournette at that point was the Heisman favorite — by a wide margin — and he entered the Tuscaloosa showdown averaging 193 rushing yards per game.

Fournette ran for just 31 yards on 19 carries against Nick Saban’s defense and, a month later, Heisman voters didn’t give him the most prestigious award in college football. And as LSU slid into a three-game losing skid, Fournette did not garner enough support to earn a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist.

“That was the toughest part,” Fournette said over the summer. “Everybody was down on me: ‘Thirty-one yards. He was not what we expected.’ ”

His two remaining goals, we can assume, are attainable this season — along with so much more. Fournette approaches his junior season with the potential to break Kevin Faulk’s career rushing marks — in one fewer season — and lay claim to a mythical title: LSU’s best running back ever.

By his standards, Fournette needs just an average year, one leaps and bounds short of his All-America outing of last year.

He can run for nearly 400 fewer yards than he did last season (1,953) and break Faulk’s career rushing record (4,557). He needs 15 touchdowns to top Faulk in rushing scores; that's seven fewer than he ran for in 2015. Eight more 100-yard rushing outings, and he’ll have that record, too; Fournette ran for 10 a season ago.

Barring injury, he’s a lock to crack Faulk’s record for yards per game (111.2), and he’s 300 carries away from the attempts-per-game mark.

For Fournette, all of that might not matter if he doesn’t cross off the final two goals on his list, two targets that eluded him during a wild 2015 season.

You won’t hear about them from Fournette, though. He’s not a talker.

“Leonard never talks about that type of stuff,” junior receiver Malachi Dupre said. “Leonard is the best player in college football. I’m not being biased. He is, in my opinion. He’s 6-1, (235) pounds and runs like he does. He’s not like the person to come in the locker room, just because he didn’t get invited to New York, and mope around. But that pushes him more, even though he never says it.”

Fournette isn’t the talkative type. Maybe he takes after his father, Leonard Sr. — better known by his nickname “Big Leonard.”

Big Leonard isn’t a talker, either. He’s personable and friendly, but he avoids the spotlight, often declining to talk. The Fournettes are a quiet, close-knit bunch. In public, they put on smiles, shake hands and give hugs, but they’re a private family who produced an athletic wonder: a stud running back with a linebacker’s build and a receiver’s speed.

Who has no desire to talk.

“After games, sometimes my phone is frozen because of how many texts and calls I get,” Fournette said last fall. “I turn it off and wait until the next day to turn it back on.”

During interviews one day in LSU’s indoor football facility, Fournette said, “Outside of this facility, I don’t talk about football at all.” He doesn’t talk about it too much at the facility, either, teammates said. Fournette is a jokester, always sporting that wide, squinty-eyed smile.

That’s beginning to change, though, fellow running back Derrius Guice said.

“When he first got here, we were both in the same place — and now you look at him, and he’s this big role model and leader on and off the field,” Guice said. “Of course we joke and stuff, but when it comes to being serious, you can definitely see the change in him stepping up. (He goes from) being goofy and playful to, ‘We’ve got to pick it up!’

“You can just tell that he really wants to win and that he’s really maturing. He wants us all on the same page, too. Whenever we’re all not on the same page, he starts screaming and stuff. You can just tell that he’s a different person than he was when he first got here.”

Fournette, previously a quiet leader, has unleashed his voice.

“Leonard is a very humble individual,” running backs coach Jabbar Juluke said. “The entire (running back) room feeds off his leadership.”

Fournette might avoid talking, but he certainly listens and reads. He admitted this summer at Southeastern Conference media days that he became “distracted” by media coverage of LSU’s three-game losing skid.

“It can get at you sometimes,” he said.

He splits time as a college football player, student and father to his 20-month-old daughter, Lyric. And, of course, he’s just not a talker — even about the things that annoy him most.

“I know it bothered him that he didn’t get invited to New York,” receiver Travin Dural said. “He didn’t say too much about it.”

“Leonard’s always been … straight-headed,” Guice said. “He never really worried about all of that. He’s still the same to me, or he just does a great job of keeping it in if he does care. But you’ll never tell if he really worried about it. He doesn’t really talk about any of that.”

Fournette is on four preseason award watch lists. Sports Illustrated named him the top player in college football for 2016, and Bovada, an online sportsbook, had him as the Heisman favorite in mid-August.

Fournette was the top vote-getter for the All-SEC team — falling just two shy of a unanimous selection.

He’s two shy of something else, also. Those goals and records await.

“I think Leonard will be Leonard,” Crutchfield said of this season. “The most important thing is, Leonard is going to only go as far as his teammates collectively allow him to go. It’s a team sport.

"They can’t do without Leonard, and Leonard can’t do without them.”

Making history ...

Leonard Fournette broke or tied several LSU records during his breakout sophomore season:

Record type

Previous record

Previous holder

Year

Fournette's 2015 output

 Rushing yards

 1,686

 Charles Alexander

 1977

 1,953

 Rushing yards
 a game

 153.3

 Charles Alexander

 1977 

 162.8

 Rushing TDs

 19

 LaBrandon Toefield

 2001

 22

 200-yard rushing  games

 2

 Charles Alexander

 1977

 4

 100-yard rushing  games

 10

 Charles Alexander

 1977

 10

 Consecutive 200-  yard rushing games

 0

 N/A

 N/A

 3

 Touchdowns in a game*

 5

 Kevin Faulk; Carlos Carson

 1997;  1977

 5

*single-game record

... and chasing history

Leonard Fournette is still chasing a handful of LSU career rushing records heading into what’s likely his final season as a Tiger:

Record type

Current record  

Record holder

Years

Fournette needs …

 Rushing yards

 4,557

 Kevin Faulk

 1995-98

 1,571

 Attempts per game

 20.9

 Kevin Faulk

 1995-98

 309 attempts*

 Yards per game

 111.2

 Kevin Faulk

 1995-98

 1,245 yards*

 Rushing TDs

 46

 Kevin Faulk

 1995-98

 15

 100-yard rushing  games

 22

 Kevin Faulk

 1995-98

 8

* — assuming he plays 13 games this season

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.