In a surprising move, LSU star running back Leonard Fournette announced he won’t play in the Citrus Bowl for the Tigers against Louisville, instead focusing on his predraft activities, and mostly staying healthy.
For Fournette, it’s a simple decision: He can’t add to his slightly dropping value by playing in this game, figuring the risk of injury (he’s missed some games this season) is bigger than the chance he’ll do something that will blow people away. When trying to rationalize the decision, there are two things worth considering:
- Coaches do it, why shouldn’t players: Coaches who get hired before the end of the season bounce before the bowl game most of the time, so why shouldn’t Fournette, who has his financial future invested in his pre draft performance, do it himself?
- It’s all about the money: College Football is a special experience, and also a different sport than the NFL. And for many, it’s only a springboard towards greater riches in the pros. Fournette has been fantastic for LSU, but the goal has always been making it as a pro. With the injury risks clear, and the benefits of getting picked early crystal clear, the choice to keep himself safe, knowing that playing won’t change his draft stock, doesn’t seem illogical.
But while it’s easy to see why he shouldn’t play, this is still a weird road to go down. Fournette is showing his teammates something that we haven’t seen from him during his three impressive seasons at Baton Rouge: Thinking only about himself, and not about the team or his friends on the team. He’s not the first player to do it, but he’s certainly the biggest name in quite a while to show such a direct approach. People don’t like hearing that often, the main goal is getting paid, not bask in the lore of the university they played for.
Fournette also read the map well. LSU did very well when he wasn’t playing this season (missed 3 games, all were blowouts) and besides his rare 284 yard performance again Ole Miss and his 3-touchdown day against Arkansas, there were plenty of flat performances this season. Once again vs Alabama, and in the season ender against Florida. That, and Derrius Guice breaking out to place himself as the premier back for the Tigers, led Fournette to decide he’s better off avoiding injury risks, and focusing on the draft. Was it a good decision? We’ll know when we see how early he gets selected. At the end of the day, the contract is the main goal, even we thought it was something else.
We close the post with a look at his incredible performance against Ole Miss two months ago, coming back from injury to run for 284 yards and score 3 touchdowns. Fournette finishes the season with less than 1000 yards, way off the mark of his fantastic 2015 season, in which he ran for 1953 yards and scored 22 touchdowns.