Leonard Fournette is one of the top college football players in the country. He’s dominant on the field, running over defenders and, sometimes, carrying them with him into the end zone.
Fournette is good. Really, really good.
But the Heisman Trophy front-runner isn’t running for himself. He’s running for his team, to lead LSU to a championship. He’s running for his parents, who kept their family together during Hurricane Katrina. He’s running for his sisters and his brother. And, most importantly, he’s running for his daughter.
Leonard Fournette is running for a lot of reasons. But every time he takes the handoff, he remembers all the people that helped him get to this point. He thinks of their determination to help him be the best and he knows he can’t disappoint them now.
Here’s what you need to know about Fournette’s family and the long road that led him to college football dominance:
1. Fournette Played High School Football With His Brother, Lanard
There’s competition. Then there’s competition between brothers. Leonard and Lanard Fournette competed – and then some.
Lanard is two years younger than Leonard and the two frequently went at it, on and off the field, while they were growing. They challenged each other at everything. Sports, video games, who could eat the most at the dining room table. In fact, once Leonard had to be rushed to the hospital to get stitches after a competition went just a bit too far.
But, for all the competition, Leonard was a protective older brother, not just to Lanard but two his sisters Latae and Lanata as well. That transitioned to the football field as well. When Leonard and Lanard both attended St. Augustine High School, coaches would line up both Fournette boys in the backfield and Leonard would signal in plays for his brother. It usually ended in touchdown runs.
Lanard, a three-star athlete in his own right, will join his older brother on the football field once again. He committed to LSU in January.
2. Fournette Grew up in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward
He was considered the top running back in the country. His mailbox was so jammed packed with recruitment letters and scholarship offers that it would often overflow. But, for Fournette, growing up was never easy. It was a daily struggle, a determination to simply stay alive and keep his family safe, living in the violent and crime-ridden Seventh Ward of New Orleans.
Two months before Fournette graduated high school, his 18-year-old cousin was shot in the chest. It’s a pain he’s carried with him every day since and one that he uses to help drive him on the football field. He told ESPN:
I just wish I could hear his voice one more time. All my family is killers. People my age are killers. They’re in jail or get life. You have to watch the places you go. It’s not really safe.
Fournette’s family eventually moved out of the Seventh Ward, shortly before he graduated from high school, but there was still a sense of danger and violence. According to an article by ESPN, the Fournette home was braced with an alarm system that beeped every 15 seconds, just to make sure the house was still secure.
3. Fournette’s Grandfather Died in Hurricane Katrina
Fournette was 10 years old when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans in 2005. The storm changed his life forever.
His grandfather died in the storm and his family was actually forced to move to Texas for a time while the city tried to recover from the damage it had sustained. When the Fournette family returned to New Orleans, they returned to a different type of home. He explained the return to ESPN, saying:
Dead bodies. I saw a man get shot in the head. The hotel caught on fire. Elderly people were dying. I saw a man take a dead man’s watch off his wrist. I kept my head down. I didn’t want to see it. When I was younger we used to play around when it stormed…Life’s short. When I was growing up I never expected anything like that to happen.
Prior to evacuating to Texas, the Fournettes, along with several other hundred evacuees, spent several days living on the Clariborne Avenue overpass portion of Interstate-10.
4. Fournette Credits His Parents for Keeping Him Humble
It would be easy to be overconfident. It would be easy to have a big head. After all, when opposing teams are complaining about you as a middle schooler, certain you were a senior and too talented, it’s easy to be certain you’re the best.
Leonard Fournette never thought that. He knew he was good, sure. He knew he could run and he wanted to run, straight into the end zone. But he also wanted to do it for the right reason. Fournette has, always, wanted to make his parents, Leonard II and Lory, proud.
So far, so good it seems.
Fournette is already a Heisman favorite early in his second season at LSU. He’s got people piling onto the bandwagon and rallying behind the Tigers. But for Fournette, this is nothing new. He’s been driving the bandwagon since he was 12. He’s also never let it go to his head.
This is a game and he is simply playing it. He’s there to make his team better, to provide for his family and it’s an outlook that has captured national attention. Even NFL players are taking notice. “You credit his parents (Leonard Jr. and Lory) for the way that they raised him, for the way they have humbled him as far as who he is,” said Kevin Faulk, a former New England Patriot.
5. He Welcomed His Daughter, Lyric, in January 2015
Fournette has always been focused on his family. It’s influenced nearly every aspect of his life and even led him to pick LSU as his college choice from nearly 100 scholarship offers across the country.
Now, Fournette’s family is even bigger. The sophomore standout became a first-time father earlier this year when he welcomed his daughter, Lyric, into the world. It’s completely changed his life. Fournette told NOLA.com:
Having a child humbled me a lot. It made me realize it’s not about me anymore. Every decision that I make can affect her future, too. So, I try my best to be the best man for her; best father.
Fournette has said that having a daughter has completely changed the way he approaches the game of football. He isn’t just playing for himself or the team or the stats anymore. He’s playing for her and every rushing yard he picks up is a way to provide for her future.
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