No. 4 LSU and No. 7 Alabama will clash with playoff implications on the line at 7 p.m. Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
LSU’s star running back, Leonard Fournette, one of the biggest playmakers in one of the biggest games in the college football season, talks about Alabama, what the game means to him and how he deals with fans, fame and the “crazy” experience of seeing children dressed as him for Halloween.
Q. A lot of people will look at this game as a huge stage for you to win the Heisman Trophy. How do you view the game?
A. I view the game as another opponent in our way. I’m not really worried about the Heisman. I’m not focused on winning the Heisman. My whole focus is on the championship right now. You know, Alabama is just another team in the way. They’re a great team. We’re going to focus on them.
Q. How are you able to put the Heisman thoughts in the back of your mind?
A. It’s very easy. If I win it, I win it. But my main focus is to win a championship, not just for us but for Louisiana, too. I think we have the ability and talent to do it.
Q. Are you a vocal leader on this team?
A. I’m pretty much vocal when I want, vocal through my actions. After every practice, standing around talking with the team. Or in practice, when we’re running plays, telling them we need to pick it up. Or certain things we’re not doing right. Or the intensity is kind of low.
Q. How do you think (LSU quarterback) Brandon Harris is handling this stage?
A. Brandon is Brandon. He’s growing. He’s forming into a leader. He doing a great job preparing himself for this game, the atmosphere of the game.
Q. Does this game feel like a playoff game?
A. It does. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere out there. You know, a lot of talent will be on the field. So we’re just getting ready.
Q. Is it different in the sense that they’re in the role of spoiler? They want to ruin your year.
A. It’s different for us because they beat us last year. We’re kind of holding that against them. But I think at the end of the day, they’re a great team and they’re going to come out a compete, too. It’ll be a fistfight all night.
Q. Were you in shock that you lost last year, considering the position you were in late in the game?
A. No. Things happen in football. I’m not going to say I was shocked. But you’ve got to fight for four quarters ... you can’t let up. And I think we were young last year. Everybody grew up from that.
Q. How do you prepare yourself, knowing they’ll be gunning to stop you?
A. You can’t really prepare for that. I know it’s going to happen. The only thing I have to do is to study them, critique whatever it is they’re doing or what they’re going to play against us. Go in the film room and study each player individually, not just the defense as a whole.
Q. Is there anything you do differently this week just to prepare for those guys?
A. Not really. Everyone is more serious, because they know what’s on the line.
Q. Do you sense that these two teams don’t like each other?
A. A little bit. When you’re on the field, you’re playing with so much passion. To see these guys coming for you, and fight every quarter, because Alabama, it gives me chills. It makes you want to be great. It makes you want to make plays. It make you ... want to stand out from everybody else.
Q. After the Florida game, A lot was made of things that happened in the pile, or after the whistle, to try to get you out of your game. How do you deal with that?
A. Sometimes you just want to get up and punch them. But I can’t do that. In the back of my mind, it’s going to affect the team, affect my focus. Don’t be selfish. It’s about the team, not about myself. I just have to try to get them between the whistles.
Q. What does Coach Miles tell the team about the history of LSU vs. Alabama?
A. He just shows us the videos. He talks about the passion between these two teams, how every time we fight with each other, it’s like the clash of the titans. With him, Coach Saban and us and their players, I think it’s going to be a great matchup.
Q. What do you hear from the fans?
A. Like, “Y’all have to beat them.” Like they’re the coaches. (Laughs) But that just comes with the territory. All of Louisiana is passionate about us.
Q. How much has your life changed in the past month or two, as far as going places and being recognized?
A. It’s crazy. Especially when I took my daughter trick-or-treating. I had to leave. I took so many pictures ... all the little kids dressed up like me. It just made me think about how many people look up to you, and it makes you want to do the right thing each and every day. Especially the kids.