If you spot a tall, bulky man dressed in a tin man costume and carrying a child dressed as a pumpkin at the New Orleans zoo on Saturday, you may have stumbled upon the Heisman Trophy frontrunner and his daughter.
Leonard Fournette, LSU’s star running back, plans to spend his off weekend trick or treating at an event at the zoo. He’s hasn’t decided on a costume yet, but he’s leaning toward the tin man from the Wizard of Oz.
His daughter, 10-month-old Lyric, has made her decision.
“A pumpkin,” Fournette said Wednesday during an interview with local reporters, his first since Oct. 17.
No. 4 LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC) will conduct its last practice of the week Thursday before taking off Friday-Sunday and then returning to preparations Monday for the Nov. 7 clash against No. 7 Alabama (7-1, 4-1) in Tuscaloosa. Fournette and several other players will spend the weekend in their hometowns. Fournette might even get his braces removed.
The 6-1, 230-pounder says he’s missed his dental appointment several times for the removal of his braces.
“I’ll make sure and probably get them off this week,” a smiling Fournette said.
Fournette said plenty more to the two dozen reporters gathered around him, less than two weeks ahead of what he calls a “clash of the titans” between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide.
It’s pretty much watch film, see what they’re working with and get my legs back under me and get my body right for this game because it’s going to be very physical.
What do you think about this matchup?
It’s going to be very physical. It’s what I call a clash of the titans. It’s going to be a big one. Alabama’s defense is tremendous.
There’s going to be a lot of focus on Bama RB Derrick Henry vs. you, right?
That has nothing to do with me. The defense plays that part. My job is to run the ball and get us in a better situation.
What do you think of his game as a fellow running back?
He’s a great back. Hard to bring down. Tremendous, talented. Size and speed. Defense has to game plan against him.
Alabama has a notorious front seven on defense. How do you game plan for them?
It’s really our O-linemen. It starts with them so whatever our coach has for them or to get them better or work their techniques against them, that’s what we have to go with.
How excited are you to feel like you can be a difference maker in this game?
I’m very excited to be a part of it again. Since high school, at home, you’re so excited just watching LSU and Alabama go against each other. Now, to see you’re in it, it’s something big and it’s … the legacy between these two teams, the tradition they have against each other, it’s going to be a big one.
I’m sure you guys want to try to win this for the seniors, not to mention what it could do for your season.
Most definitely. Everybody puts the work in, especially the seniors. It’s their last go-around with some of us. They’re moving on to bigger and better things. Create a legacy with each other.
Last year, you had 80 yards against Alabama. Do you think this year with the way you’re passing the ball, that you’re more balanced going into this game?
How much is this game mental – believing you can go to Tuscaloosa and win?
Everything is mental. It starts with that. You can’t have the mindset going there and saying, ‘We’re going to lose.’ You’ll play poorly. You have to come in, great mindset, positive vibes around you. That’s my main thing. Coming into next week, everything is positive. Just try to get better.
You’ve talked about winning championships. This is a game y’all have to have to win to win the SEC. Talk about that.
It starts with this team. Great team. Coach Nick Saban, great coach. Defense and offense, they’re talented on both sides. As the week goes on, we have to prepare ourselves. Not (only) with the team, but when you go home. Got to watch film. Have to still study these guys. Not just the defense but players one on one.
How important is it for you to win a championship?
Very important. It’s not just for me. It’s for Louisiana period. LSU hasn’t seen a championship in a minute. Why not be the first one to (bring) it back? Who says it couldn’t be us?
Is Alabama a little different of an opponent for you, a little more special?
It’s just different for me. Don’t know about anybody else on the team. I have a relationship with (Alabama running backs) coach (Burton) Burns and (LSU running backs) Coach Frank (Wilson). They both went to St. Aug. The relationship I developed with them since eighth, ninth grade. It’d be good to see Coach Burns again for the first time.
Nick Saban said you were the best running back he’s ever seen during the recruiting process. What was his pitch to you and why did you say no?
Everybody had the same thing, wanted me to come to their school. At the end of the day, it was up to me. I felt home here at LSU. Nothing’s wrong with Bama. I just wanted to be different. Everybody kept going to Alabama, Bama, Bama. Why not be different? Why not create your own legacy? That’s what I decided to do.
It does nothing. The noise, it doesn’t get to me. I come here to play a game with my team. Anybody else outside of that doesn’t really matter.
What do you remember about the 2011 game between LSU and Alabama?
It went down to the wire. Last minute of the game. Both defenses were playing tremendous. I can remember Eric Reid intercepting the ball. Tyrann Matheiu making big plays. Mo Claiborne making big plays. I think this game is going to come down to the wire.
Has Brandon Harris and the passing game helped the running game?
It has. I feel like Brandon has matured a lot. He’s taking the game with ease right now, going through his progressions. He’s understanding the game.
Look back on the first seven games. What do you like and what do you wish you could have done more?
Nothing. Winning with my team. Beating all odds. People say we couldn’t beat this certain team we lost to last year. It’s a great feeling that the preparation and the hard work you put in shows off on Saturdays.
Everybody’s had their eye on you all of your life, but you still manage to push yourself. What is it?
It’s something that’s inside me. I’m not the type of person to give up even if … like in football, you can have a bad play, but it’s all about the bounce back. It’s something inside me – my family, my background, just the history.
Have y’all given Malachi Dupre and Brandon Harris a hard time about saving people in the flood?
I wasn’t down here for that. They told me. I probably was upstairs sleeping, especially with the weather. You know, the rain makes you fall asleep. I’m wondering why they were outside.
Have you seen defenses do anything different the last couple of games to limit your big runs?
Everybody plays pretty much the same things – eight, nine guys in the box. Try to contain me. It works – sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it does.
The whole team misses him. He’s our brother. He’s one of the main pieces to this puzzle, and Bry’Kiethon is doing a tremendous job.
Do you like having a lead blocker?
It doesn’t matter. Fullback is a difficult job. We’re still working with Bry’Kiethon. He’s come along way even in practice. His time’s going to come.
Was it hard to cut against Western Kentucky because of the rain?
It was very wet outside. It was so heavy. Your uniform is wet, couldn’t really get no power drive, with your legs. Very wet outside.
Are you just getting used to defenses putting nine guys in the box?
You have to, especially these last games we have. You know they’re going to come with it.