HOOVER, Ala. — Leonard Fournette was supposed to wear a black suit.
“Classic” is how one LSU media relations staff member described the outfit.
Black pants, black jacket, light shirt, black loafers, tie. It was perfect for the star’s first appearance at Southeastern Conference Media Days — where the lights don’t get much brighter for a college football player in July.
When Fournette arrived Thursday morning for the 50-minute flight from Baton Rouge to Birmingham, he was decked in the following: red pants, blue suede shoes, a red bowtie and a beige jacket that had four front pockets with buttons the size of quarters.
What the heck happened?
On a whim, Fournette went shopping for something different.
“It’s not designer,” he said of the jacket. “More like Dillard’s. Got whatever was on sale.”
That included those brightly colored red pants priced, he said, at $6.99, and a clip-on bowtie to match — both coach Les Miles’ least favorite color. Miles joked that he thought about throwing Fournette off the plane or spray-painting the pants a different color.
Fournette’s outfit had camera men squatting to get a pan from his feet to his shaved head and even had radio personality Paul Finebaum chiding the look.
“I brought him here, but I didn’t tell him what color pants to wear,” Miles said.
He brought him here, though, and that’s more of a statement than Fournette’s splashy attire.
Just a sophomore, the nation’s former top-ranked recruit is LSU’s guy. The Tigers are built around Fournette. They’re made around Fournette. They lean on Fournette.
If they meet expectations this season — they were picked to finish third in the SEC West — they’ll do it because of Fournette.
The New Orleans native paraded around the Wynfrey on Thursday with a host of TV cameras following his every move — an expected showing for one of the Heisman Trophy favorites and a player who set the LSU rookie rushing record last season.
He rarely sported something other than a wide smile, often chuckled at the simplest of questions and even interacted with reporters.
It was like he had experienced this all before.
“It’s been like that since my eighth-grade year,” the former high school phenom said.
For nearly three hours, Fournette visited a dozen rooms — each filled with different media. He took more than 10 questions about Georgia running back Nick Chubb, another Heisman hopeful who out-rushed Fournette in their freshman seasons last year.
To each, he gave a similar answer.
“He’s the best running back in the SEC,” a smiling Fournette said.
“I’m trying to get where he is,” he said in another room.
He talked for the first time publicly about his 6-month-old daughter, Lyric, saying that her birth “changed my life.” He described the first time he saw Miles eat grass and — 10 months later — fielded questions about the Heisman pose he struck after his first college touchdown.
“You will not see another Heisman pose from Leonard Fournette,” he answered in one room.
He was asked to compare himself to a car. The answer: “Bugatti,” he said, referring to the rare French-made cars that are worth in the millions.
One radio personality called Fournette “a man child beast.”
“A nice beast,” she added, as the running back left the interview.
Fournette also addressed his steadily trimming frame. He has lost 10 pounds over the summer and now weighs Baton Rouge’s area code: 225. He has pants he can barely wear anymore. The red ones he donned Thursday had to be tailored.
Dieting hasn’t been easy. He was tested just before his journey around the Wynfrey got started.
In a third-floor hotel suite, Fournette lifted the lid of a box, glanced at its contents and smiled. Staring back at him were about a dozen donuts. One had sprinkles, another was chocolate and a third was glazed. He turned the box toward teammate and LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith.
“Want one?” he asked.
Donuts aren’t on Fournette’s diet.
What is? Baked fish, baked chicken and Subway, to name a few items. His only treat is a sweet each night — Mamba fruit chews and Gatorade. The diet does not include Raising Cane’s, he noted.
It has gotten him faster. He’s beating smaller teammates like Jamal Adams and Jalen Mills in 40-yard sprints. Fournette said his speed was recently clocked: He runs 21 mph — up from 20 a year ago.
“If you block your man even halfway good, he’s gone,” said right tackle Vadal Alexander, one of three player representatives the Tigers selected for Media Days.
Thursday was a respite from grueling summer workouts — from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. — for Fournette, Alexander and Beckwith. None of them seemed to enjoy it more than LSU’s tailback. who has had cameras poked in his face for the past half-decade — sometimes when he doesn’t want them there.
“I can go to Wendy’s, but people are going to recognize me,” he said. “They come knocking on my window. ‘Leonard, how you doing?’ It’s normal.”
Amid LSU’s busy offseason — five arrests and three transfers in a six-week span — Fournette has stayed out of trouble. It will remain that way, he said.
“I don’t go out,” he said. “Anybody with a phone is media.”
Away from the cameras Thursday, Fournette’s true personality came through. He’s a clown.
Fournette, Alexander and Beckwith watched Miles gives his address to the main media room.
“I like my team,” Miles said to reporters.
Fournette followed by playfully repeating Miles’ patented remark to chuckles from the other two. Minutes later, Fournette turned to an attendant in the room who held the remote.
“You could put it on Cartoon Network,” he told him.
The attendant listened. After all, you don’t want to tick off Leonard Fournette.
Here’s a guy who wore red pants despite his coach despising the color of two of his biggest rivals — Ohio State and Alabama.
“As soon as I walked on the plane, Coach (Miles) said, ‘Leonard, are you serious?!’ ” Fournette said. “ ‘Coach, I understand you’re going to be upset, but at least I look good at the end of the day.’ ”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.