As the nation’s No. 1 football recruit, Leonard Fournette long ago became accustomed to garnering lots of media attention.
Yet even he may not have been ready for what he found Sunday afternoon when he walked onto the field at the LSU indoor practice facility for his first media day with the Tigers.
About three dozen reporters stood in a circle around the folding chair Fournette eventually made his way to for a 40-minute interview session that preceded a session with a much larger crowd awaiting him at fan day.
As he took his seat, the 6-foot-1, 224-pounder immediately looked up, smiled and calmly said, “So, who’s asking the questions?”
With that, arguably the most celebrated player to sign with the LSU football program since running back Kevin Faulk nearly two decades ago took his first official media session in stride.
Fournette was cool, comfortable and engaging, taking every question in stride and joking with interviewers who were getting their first crack at talking to him since preseason practice began a week ago.
After dealing with media since bursting onto the scene as a ninth-grader at St. Augustine High, Fournette is certainly used to the questions — and it was easy to see he understands it comes with the territory.
“For four years of high school, I dealt with it even though some days it got aggravating,” he said. “But I prayed on it. … This is the talent and ability God gave me, so this is what comes with it.”
About the only thing that surprised him Sunday afternoon was the number of reporters who gathered around to hear from the only two-time Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year.
When asked whether the media throng was about what he expected for his first media day, he said, “Nah, not this many.”
Still, the 19-year-old has learned to insulate himself from the hype that came with his athletic ability and decision to commit to LSU over Alabama on the day after the Tigers’ victory against Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
“The truth is, I don’t worry about (the hype) at all,” he said. “My mother sends me a text every night. She says. ‘Leonard, you have enough hype. Just say your prayers and ask God to keep you humble.’ I do it every night.”
For now, Fournette doesn’t think about the hype. It’s more about getting in the playbook, learning the Tigers offense and making the most out of every practice opportunity.
So far, he’s learned that there’s much more to preseason camp, like waking up at 6:30 a.m. every day and not getting to bed until 11 p.m. — or later.
“It’s a little bit more than what I expected,” he said. “The playbook is hard, but (offensive coordinator Cam Cameron) breaks it down and makes it easy for us to understand.
“The first week, it was fun just learning the plays and getting to know all the players. The learning curve is way bigger, especially from a blocking point of view and just learning. We have a thousand signs and signals, so it’s getting it in your mind and remembering stuff.”
Running backs coach Frank Wilson, who recruited Fournette, said it’s been all good so far.
“It’s probably been the norm, the other players have embraced him as one of the guys and he’s assumed his role as just one of the guys,” Wilson said. “He’s a very hard worker, and he’s diligent. So it’s been very productive out there the first week.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.