He was the biggest thing in New Orleans since voodoo and beignets. A phenom that drew crowds by the thousands to Friday night high school football games. A product of Louisiana State University and fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.
The Buccaneers are in a rush to start the 2022 season at 2-0, the recipe starts with one key ingredient. His name is Leonard Fournette. But you know him by Lombardi Lenny.
Imagine a ten-year old Fournette battling Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as the water flooded the entire French Quarter. When it became apparent that the family would need to seek higher ground for survival. Fournette, his grandmother, and other family members would seek the “bare minimum refuge of a Louisiana highway overpass. Where they would remain for the next four days and five nights.
Fournette recently spoke with ESPN about how he and his family navigated the disaster that was Katrina.
“The water was so high, we couldn’t really carry our grandparents through the water, because the water was up to our necks,” Fournette continued, “One of my father’s good friends, they stole a boat, and we put our parents and grandparents on the boat and carried them to the bridge from there. I don’t know where the hell he got that boat from, to be honest. I’m just a testament to where I come from,” Fournette said. “So of course I’m gonna carry that.”
High School Phenom
After four straight games rushing for 200+ yards rushing as a freshman in high school. On the varsity team, no less. An adolescent Fournette. Would drop the class clown persona and start to formulate a football persona. One that would eventually lead to the most sought after, number one high school recruit in the entire country. Eventually landing the New Orleans native at LSU. Where he would set a freshman record of 1.034 yards. With a humbleness and work ethic that drew the praise of his coaches and teammates.
Sometime around the zenith of Buccaneer championship football. During COVID, the signing of Tom Brady, and endless mayhem. The Jacksonville Jaguars made a huge mistake. One that Jason Licht and the Buccaneers took beautiful advantage of. The acquisition of Fournette to Tampa Bay. Even with the waves being made by the potential progress in the passing game. Adding a superstar like Fournette to the backfield had unlimited possibilities for historic implications.
As the 2020 Buccaneers would close the season out reeling off four victories in a row. Then win four post-season victories to secure the second world championship in Tampa Bay history. From “playoff Lenny”, to “Lombardi Lenny”, the Louisiana native would have a huge contribution in a toughness that embodied the entire Buccaneers team. Mislabeled a locker room liability. Leonard Fournette would step front and center to become an organizational asset.
Streak Busting Time
The Buccaneers have gone 0-4 in the regular season against division rival New Orleans the last two seasons. The first step for success for every NFL team is build a roster to beat division rivals. The Saints have shown these last two years that they have done just that. Both teams with such solid defenses, this division rivalry becomes an war. Defensive minded coaches in Todd Bowles and Dennis Allen. Even with Tom Brady and the possibly, the best receiving corps ever assembled in the history of the National Football League. This game will be won, or lost, on the ground.
It just so happens that the Buccaneers have one of the best defenses against the run. Also, the Saints were torched for north of 200 yards on the ground last week against the Falcons. While everybody debates about the new offensive line in front of the GOAT in 2022. For this week two matchup between division rivals with little love for each other. The ground attack should be first and foremost for the Buccaneers.
Not just because one of the best running backs in the NFL wears pewter and red. Not even because this is a “home cooking” game for the bayou legend, Leonard Fournette.
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