Photos: Wild, wacky, emotional game day ends with victory, LSU coach Les Miles carried off field by players _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) lunges out of the tackle of Texas A&M defensive back Armani Watts (23) in the second half of the LSU-Texas A&M football game in Baton Rouge, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. LSU won, 19-7.


Leonard Fournette’s absence from the Heisman Trophy ceremony enraged his family, friends and teammates much more than it did himself, he said.

LSU’s star running back moved into the therapist role, calming those close to him.

“I explained to them, everything happens for a reason. Can’t be upset about it. I’ve got two more years left of college,” the sophomore said.

“It pretty much bummed everybody out,” he said. “Everybody was mad. I was mad at myself just a little bit. But, like I say, everything happens for a reason and I don’t question God’s work at all.”

Fournette spoke to local reporters during a Texas Bowl news conference on Monday at the team hotel, the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston, a day before No. 22 LSU (8-3) meets Texas Tech (7-5) at NRG Stadium.

It was Fournette’s first meeting with reporters at a scheduled bowl interview session, as LSU coach Les Miles relieved his 1,700-yard rusher from the spotlight.

What would it mean to become the first back in SEC history to reach 2,000 yards rushing?

It doesn’t matter. It’s all about getting a victory with my team tomorrow.

What if you got both on the same day?

It would be an honor. It’s not just for me but for my team.

Will a bowl victory and maybe getting that 2,000-yard record make up for not getting an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony?

I’m not worrying about it. It is what it is. That’s the main goal. It’s all about winning at the end of the day, especially the bowl game. Last season we lost our bowl game to Notre Dame and it kind of put a sour taste in our mouth. We need victory for this game.

(Travis Spradling)

(Travis Spradling)

What kind of effect does that have when you lose that game at the end of the year verse winning that game?

I know losing the momentum going towards the off-season… we worked hard. Everybody’s mindset was to win, be better than last year.

What’s this year been like for you – just the attention?

It’s been fun. It’s been a fun experience, going out and playing the best teams in the nation each and every week on Saturday with my team, my boys. I enjoyed every bit of it.

Thoughts on being in Houston?

We’d like to go shopping, but we’re so busy, but hopefully we can do that.

How good did the A&M game feel after the three-game losing streak?

It felt great just to get a W under our belt, get those three Ls out of the way.

How has the month off helped you health-wise?

I felt great, spent most of my time with my daughter, my family.

You feel fresher, and can you feel that in practice?

Yeah. Everybody can.

(Bill Feig)

(Bill Feig)

You’re back at the site of your first college game a year ago? What was that like for you against Wisconsin?

Yeah, everything was fast. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It’s funny because that time flew and now we’re back here. We have to come out … don’t get me wrong. They’re a good team. I don’t care what nobody say, offense holds their part and the defense comes out to play too. We don’t underestimate anybody. We’re ready to go out there and play.

Are you excited to be in this bowl game?

As long as we have another game to play, it doesn’t matter to me.

How are you guys motivated by coach Miles?

I say his speeches. Every time we go out to practice, we watch videos of past games we played. He has a way with words. Sometimes it may take you a week to figure out what he said.

Do you have examples?

There are plenty of examples. When we’re at practice and he explains something to the team, everybody’s kind of looking at each other like, ‘What’s that mean?’

He’ll look at us and say, ‘Y’all don’t get it right?’ We’d be like, ‘No, we don’t get it, and he explains it in a simpler way.

How long’s it take you to learn how to decipher?

The (assistant) coaches decipher for us. We go back, once out of practice, and ask them, ‘What coach Miles said?’ And they’ll make it simpler for us.

Are there challenges to getting so much attention, how you can’t go to some places?

(Bill Feig)

(Bill Feig)

That’s how it’s always been since high school. It’s nothing new for me, just being cautious with everything I do.

How good is Derrius Guice and how good can he be?

He’s great. He’s great man. Treating him like my little brother. I love being around Derrius. He has a great attitude. He can be better than me. Just got to keep working hard.

How do you think you’d fit in in an offense like Texas Tech?

I know they throw the ball a lot. They use their running back to catch the ball and they run the ball a lot. Who knows.

Did you grow up idolizing a great LSU football player?

Nah. When I was younger, I really didn’t know too much about LSU. I didn’t know LSU existed. I just started to know about them when I got to high school.

What was your awareness of college football?

Nah, I didn’t have a favorite player, favorite team. My favorite team is the 49ers, I want y’all to know.

Tech gives up a lot of yards on the ground. Do you not get over-confident looking at that? What’s your approach?

Things could be different. They could play harder this game. They might change their scheme up. Never get to hot, never get to low. Stay steady.

You’d still never consider sitting out a year right?

Nah, never. If I sat out, it’d hurt me as much to see those guys, my brothers, go out there and play each and every week and go to war without me. They win a championship without me, I’d be hurt. I’d be devastated.

How much did your bowl performance against Notre Dame give you a boost into the off-season last year?

It boosted everybody man. Just so anxious to get back in the routine of playing football. It was great, especially for me.

What was your first reaction to the bowl matchup and you heard about their defensive stats?

I didn’t care. As long as I go out there and play with my boys again, some of the seniors for the last time, I want to enjoy every bit with them.

Are there people who urged you to sit out next year?

The rumor came out of nowhere to be honest. I never considered doing that.

How can you sum up how crazy this year has been for you personally?

It’s fun man. You never know what you did until you look back. My brother showed me the highlights of the games we played. Just looking back and noticing everything I did, it’s amazing fun experience. Thank God.

Did you meet your goals this season?

I didn’t set any goals. Just tried to be better than last year, I’ll say that.

(Travis Spradling)

(Travis Spradling)

What about next year’s goals?

Try to be better than this year.

That’s gonna be hard?

Yeah, it is, but got to work harder, push yourself to the limit.

Is your daughter Lyric here?

Nah, she’s at home. She’s living right now. Shout out to her. She’ll be 1 years old on the fourth of January.

Will she be at the game?

Nah. She’ll watch is on TV, probably riding in her little car, chilling.

What did you get her for Christmas?

Tons of stuff. She got three (mini) cars. Everybody’s not able. I’ve got one (car). She has a Benz, an Audi and a Bentley.

How much better can y’all get over 13 bowl practices?

A lot of work, I’ll tell you that. Sometimes mentally, you aren’t into the practice. Come out of break and everybody is ready to go back home, but it’s up to the captains to get everybody back in the groove and that’s what we did. Your mindset isn’t right, practice isn’t going to go right.

Was it difficult not to eat too much during the holidays?

Nah. I eat a lot, but have a few days to recover. Some of us did work out so we wouldn’t come back out of shape. Some of us did, was tired. Bell peppers and macaronis go to us.

What do you see in the Tech defense?

They’re active. People say they’re the worst in rushing, but it doesn’t matter. Some people use that against themselves to play harder and work harder. I know for sure they’ll come out with their A game. We have to come out and fight back.

Do the losses teach you that you can’t take any defense lightly?

The one thing I’ll say about football is it defines as a person. As I told the team for the A&M game, some of us aren’t used to losing games period. I think that’s one of the hardest parts for some of the players on the team.

This game will define you as a person, as a man. It will challenge your character. It’s all about how you react to everything.

Coach Miles gave you a break from the media as we haven’t spoken to you in a month, right? How’s that been?

It’s been all right. I’ve just been going straight home (after practice) and chilling.

Did you miss us?

I miss y’all’s faces but not the questions.

Vadal Alexander said there’s no doubt in his mind that you’re the best back in college football.

It’s how he feels. That’s my fat man. I call him, ‘Fat Man.’ He blocks for me man, opens holes for me man. Without them, I wouldn’t be in the predicament I’m in now.

What’s the best thing about being a dad?

I can tell you that each morning I wake up and ask myself, ‘What should I do today?’ It comes to my mind, ‘I’ve got to call my daughter.’ I wasn’t used to that at first, but this being a dad has been tremendous, teaching you a lot about responsibility. It’s a different type of love.

With football and her and school, it’s hard sometimes. Most of the time, she grows up fast. I’m dealing with school and practice, so I rarely see her. I see her on Facetime, but her mother brings her down sometimes.

It’s a great feeling, knowing you have to take care of somebody.

How has she changed you?

I’m softer now. I think if I had a boy, it would have been tough love, but with a girl it’s different.

(Bill Feig)

(Bill Feig)

Were you licking your chops when you saw the matchup with Texas Tech?

I went back to sleep. My mother told me we were playing Texas Tech. On Twitter, everybody was saying how bad they were on defense. Looked at it and went back to sleep. We had practice in a couple of hours.

Has there been anything that surprised you about their defense when you flipped on the tape?

They’re actually good. They may be undersized but they run to the ball. They remind me of Syracuse. They’re very active. Like, eight people is going to tackle you at one time. The coaches did a great job of challenging them to run to the ball.

If someone told you before the year that you’re going to be an All-American and run for 1,700 yards, you’d be happy with it right?

I didn’t know. I probably would have been excited.Just coming into the season my main goal was to be better than last year, have more rushing yards than last year, get more into the team, understand defenses, be a better player overall.

Any plans to get the braces off?

They’re coming off soon. I don’t have time to get to my appointment, but I’m ready for them to come off.

Is the O-line ready for a breakout game?

Yeah. I think they’re going to get back to the pancake days. They’re ready to eat.

You feel like Brandon Harris has made some strides this bowl practice?

Yeah, it all starts with him. We follow him.

How much better have you gotten since that first game at NRG Stadium against Wisconsin?

A lot. For me, being a freshman just coming in, used to scoring four or five touchdowns a game. I was going to do that (in college). It’s different. Now I got used to it. It’s going by so fast, I’m just enjoying it.

You still in the mix to return kicks?

Nah, that’s Derrius Guice and Donte (Jackson) job.