LSU running back Leonard Fournette says he’s recovered fully from an ankle injury he suffered two weeks ago and that he’s participating at full speed in practice – the most reassuring news to LSU fans revealed from the star’s first meeting with local reporters since practice began a month ago.
“Yeah,” Fournette said, “I’m good.”
Fournette met with reporters for more than 15 minutes five days ahead of the sixth-ranked Tigers’ season-opening clash with the Badgers at Lambeau Field.
He playfully cracked on LSU’s two nose tackles, calling Travonte Valentine “fat” and saying Greg Gilmore sweated too much. And he insisted that he will not be doing the famous Lambeau Leap after scoring a touchdown.
He poked fun, even, at the circumstances of his injury, a sprained ankle suffered on Aug. 16. Linebacker Donnie Alexander yanked him down from behind and then fell on his ankle. He lay on the turf in pain.
“It was crazy,” Fournette said smiling. “Everybody got quiet. The music stopped. It was a crazy moment.”
Here's everything else Fournette said during his interview Monday:
Q: What do you want to show on Saturday?
Fournette: We have an excellent team, great ball players on our team, make plays, make those catches you need at that time.
Q: You feel healthy?
Fournette: Yeah, I’m good. I’m good.
Q: What happened on the ankle sprain?
Fournette: It wasn’t … nothing too serious. Donnie pulled me from the back and fell on my ankle. It was nothing serious.
Q: What did you do to Donnie?
Fournette: I couldn’t do nothing to him at the moment. I was kind of mad at first, but at the end of the day, that’s my brother.(We) came in here as a freshman. It’s all love.
Q: What do you remember about your first game of your career, which came against Wisconsin?
Fournette: I didn’t really play, so .. I’m just excited for the first game.
Q: The game was fast right?
Fournette: Yeah. It’s going to be slower now. I’m used to the speed. We’ll see.
Q: Is Brandon Harris getting better with the short passes to you backs?
Fournette: You’ll see him Saturday. I don’t want to talk too much about what we’re going to do and how our players have gotten better. The game is days away.
Q: How have you evolved as a player?
Fournette: I’m smarter than my previous years of playing at LSU. Also, overall, I’m a better leader. Some of the young guys coming in, they’re talented. They have the potential to be better than our freshman group.
Q: Do you have conversations with Cam Cameron and Les about them not running you too much?
Fournette: Me and Coach Miles, Coach Cam, never have the talk so ... as coaches, they’ve been doing a great job since I got here. Nothing should change.
Q: So you want as many as 300 carries like last year?
Fournette: It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s a team sport. Whoever gets the ball, they’re going to do their thing and everybody’s going to block for them.
Q: Will Clapp complimented your football IQ. Can you talk about the element of that?
Fournette: Watching film. Some abilities God has blessed me with, some things I know off-hand. I don’t have to study it. God gets that credit.
Q: But the IQ part...
Fournette: Film work with the coaches, Brandon and just, on my off time and at home, going on YouTube watching film. That’s helped me out a lot.
Q: What have you see from UW’s defense on film?
Fournette: They’re very fundamental. Their end No. 47 (Vince Biegel), he’s talented man. It’s going to be an interesting matchup. We just have to play our job, do what we have to do.
Q: Has Dave Aranda given you tips on running against his former defense?
Fournette: I never really asked him anything. Coach Aranda, he’s quiet, doesn’t talk a lot, but he’s a great coach, too.
Sophomore Toby Weathersby and junior K.J. Malone will start at the tackle positions, and fre…
Q: Is the team taking more of a responsibility for the community after the rough summer?
Fournette: We are because, with everything going on right now in Louisiana and what we went through, LSU football, I think, will help the community no matter what they’re going through, just to bring their hopes up high.
Q: Are you excited about Lambeau?
Fournette: We’re coming there for business. It’s a game. It’s going to be fun to travel there and play there, but at the end of the day we’re trying to get the W.
Q: Lambeau Leap?
Fournette: Nah, I ain’t trying to leap.
Q: Is it different though playing in such a historic place?
Fournette: It is man. That’s where Aaron Rodgers is at, Brett Favre, those guys. That’s the GOATs.
Q: Do you feel like you need to exceed what you accomplished last year?
Fournette: Nah. No pressure is on me. I come here, like my team, always to do your job. Everything else will take care of itself. No pressure at all.
Q: The coordinators are on the field instead of press box. What do you think?
Fournette: It should be interesting. When things go wrong, instead of us on the phone talking to the coaches, they’re right there, just tell them what’s going on and what’s happening.
Q: How’s new running backs coach Jabbar Juluke worked out?
Fournette: He pushes us every day at practice. Have our mindset to go hard each and every play. Blocking for other people. He’s doing everything we need him to do and I think he’s one of the best coaches to come through.
Q: You say Lyric, your daughter, has changed you, but what did it do big picture?
Fournette: It’s humbling, ya know. Also, my decision making about what I want to do and how it can affect her in the long run. She makes me grind harder each and every day, by going to class more. It’s just … it’s one of the best experiences for me, especially at my age. You see someone that’s so little and over the time learns so much stuff that you didn’t teach them. It’s just crazy.
Q: Y'all had a clean summer with no arrests. Is that because y'all know you have the potential for greatness?
Fournette: It’s that and also it starts with the leaders on the team. We know we have the talent and we know it’s easy getting in trouble out here and it’s hard to get out of. We try to prevent, as much as we can, about people going out or us, as a unit, as a team, just going out to eat with each other or going to someone’s house playing a game, kicking back and relaxing with each other.
Q: Do you reflect on your season, as a whole, last year?
Fournette: I haven’t shattered everybody’s record. Kevin Faulk has a lot of records. My whole job is to be better than last year.
Q: You're to have three new offensive linemen. What’s that mean for a running back when you have guys change in front of you?
Fournette: I trust them. Throughout camp, they did one heck of a job blocking for me, protecting Brandon and developing as young players.
Q: Is Duke Riley ready to start at linebacker?
Fournette: Yeah, I think Duke is ready, man. He’s one of the goofiest players on our team. I love being around him. When he’s on the field, it just switches. He’s a whole different person.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda aren't the only LSU …
Q: What about Greg Gilmore?
Fournette: Big Greg is ready. He just sweats a lot. That’s my only problem I have with Greg – he just sweats a lot.
Q: You expect defenses to do anything different against the offense this year because of you?
Fournette: You’ll have to ask the defensive coordinators. That’s something I can’t (answer).
Q: What is it like practicing against Aranda's defense and does it give you an idea of what to expect Saturday?
Fournette: Our defense is very different from theirs. We have more athletic guys, they’re faster. Like I said, I know Wisconsin is going to play their part, guys going to need to be where they need to be at. Our only reaction is to play fundamental football, like them.
Q: Last year, you had a bull's eye on you. Do you feel like people are watching and taking a slow approach this year?
Fournette: I hope not. I wish it’s like last year. We’re just ready. I know I’m ready. Each and every day motivating these guys.
Q: What do you think of Michael Divinity?
Fournette: For a freshman, he’s pretty strong. He has the ability, has the talent. Like I said, us for the young guys, is just to keep them motivated. Some don’t know how to play against a top team. For some, it’s their first real game. Hopefully he holds his position down and will be all right.
Q: You saw Travonte Valentine two years ago. What’s the difference now?
Fournette: There’s not a difference. Valentine has always been good, been talented ever since he’s been here. He’s slimmer, but, I don’t know, he looks fat to me. I think he’s going to be one of the most important (pieces) of our team.
Q: Do you have any personal goals?
Fournette: Just to win every game that’s coming our way, take every team heavy. When the game comes, prepare for them and focus on them.
Q: How much did yall learn from the 2014 game against Wisconsin? You needed a big comeback to win.
Fournette: Looks can be deceiving. They’re very talented and they have a lot of players on their team that can make plays. Really, it’s not to take no one lightly.
Q: Personally, what did you learn from that game? It was your first college game
Fournette: It just went fast. That’s all. Nothing too serious.
Q: Do you think about the records you can break this year?
Fournette: If it comes, it comes. At the end of the day, I just want to win a national championship – nothing less.
Q: What’s it like to start a season at Lambeau with all of the national attention?
Fournette: It’s very exciting, especially when everybody’s talents are going to be on broadcast. We have a lot of young guys who are talented, some you haven’t heard of. They’re going to come out and do big things for us.
Q: Les Miles says this is, maybe, the most talented group of backs he's had. What do you see from them?
Fournette: Everybody’s the same to me. Nobody’s better than no one. If I come out, we’re not going to skip a heartbeat. Everybody works hard. Everybody has the same mindset.
Q: Everybody talks about how talented and mature Brandon Harris is and how he’s going to lead y'all to great things…
Fournette: As he should be. If your quarterback is not confident in himself, we’re not going to have confidence in him. He talks and walks different. That’s something I’m proud to say because form my freshman year, to sophomore, to now, it’s a tremendous change
Q: When you return to New Orleans and walk on the streets, does everybody know who you are – like Drew Brees and Anthony Davis?
Fournette: Something like that.
I try to (avoid public), but I have to go to the mall. It’s going to come. I can’t really duck and dodge it.
Q: When y'all came in, the 2014 class, is this is what y'all had in mind?
Fournette: I told Jamal (Adams) at the Under Armour Game, before I committed on the stage, I told him I was coming to (LSU). Ever since then, we’ve been tight. Now, being in college, just seeing how fast those two years went by, it’s kind of crazy. Each and every day, seeing how people have grown up, like Jamal. It’s crazy. Everything we’re going through right now, is what we pictured coming here as a freshman.
Q: Take us through the play in which you were injured?
Fournette: I was running the ball and Donnie (Alexander) pulled my jersey down from the back, man. It was nothing too serious. It happens in football. Football is risky. He fell on my ankle. It was crazy. Everybody go quiet, the music stopped. It was a crazy moment. I went to rehab right after that. My ankle is better now.
Q: How are you feeling at practice?
Fournette: I’m 100 percent. I was just down (while) watching everybody practice. And, then, being on one of the best players on the team, you want to be out there working hard with them. It was just different.
Q: How important is it to leave a legacy this season by winning a title?
Fournette: It’s very important, especially for me, being from Louisiana, from New Orleans. You don’t know how many people look up to you and by us winning it, you don’t know whose life you can change or somebody mindset you can change and do great things.
Q: Can it inspire hope?
Fournette: Most definitely. So many people look up to us. It’s crazy. It can be from older people to younger people. You never know who can you inspire.
Q: What was the rehab like for the ankle?
Fournette: Balancing. It was aggravating though. Just getting those muscles back in my leg. I didn’t practice for a week so it was kind of stiff.
Q: Still practicing in a “light” role?
Fournette: Nah, I’m practicing heavy now.
Q: With all of the returning starters, can you pick up where you left off vs. Texas Tech?
Fournette: The guy who left, they left so many young guys behind them and they did a great job with them.
Q: Can you be more productive with fewer touches?
Fournette: Blocking, catching and overall leading my team. Say, we’re down in a game, picking them back up.