On a warm October night last year, ESPN descended on City Park in New Orleans to broadcast a nationally televised contest between two proud Louisiana football powerhouses: the John Curtis Patriots and the St. Augustine Purple Knights.
Both teams were loaded with college prospects, and the Patriots entered the game as the top-ranked team in the LHSAA’s Division II.
However, the lasting image for anyone who was at Tad Gormley Stadium or watched on ESPN around the country that night was the tremendous performance put on by Purple Knights running back Leonard Fournette.
Those who follow college recruiting or high school football in Louisiana had known about Fournette for a while, but this was his coming-out party.
Any doubts about whether Fournette was the top running back recruit in the country were quickly erased as the 6’1”, 226 lb. back ran roughshod over a quality John Curtis defense.
He looked like a man among boys, rushing for 255 yards on 34 carries, making unbelievable plays and scoring in ways that one might not expect from a player with his frame.
Of course, he’s effective on draw plays, using his brute strength to simply run over unlucky defenders in his way, but as we saw last October, he can bounce to the outside and just flat-out run.
He also has a knack for making something out of nothing. Whether he’s catching a dump-off pass in the flat and rambling down the field for 40 yards or reversing to the weak side of the field on a broken option play, Leonard Fournette can do it all (and he did that night).
The Purple Knights shocked the eventual Division II state champion Patriots, 29-28.
The five-star recruit made LSU fans sweat it out for a little while, but Fournette eventually announced in January that he’s bringing Buga Nation to Baton Rouge.
With the recent departure of Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue, Fournette will fill an immediate need in the Tigers’ running back rotation.
Fournette will join seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee in the backfield, and he very well may outshine both of them this season.
Of course, Fournette was widely considered the best high school football player in the country last year, so he’s not exactly flying under the radar as a true freshman.
All 13 other head coaches in the SEC (especially Nick Saban) are well aware of Fournette’s capabilities.
Although he’s young, Fournette’s combination of size and speed is rare, and he was a proven leader and competitor at the high school level.
Tiger fans are expecting big things from Fournette this season (and at least two more seasons after that) and there aren’t many reasons to suggest they’ll be disappointed.
Unless, of course, you’re suspect.