Brian Allee-Walsh

Pros outweigh cons for NFL-bound RB Leonard Fournette of LSU

Saints columnist Brian Allee Walsh
Saints columnist Brian Allee Walsh Biloxi

NEW ORLEANS

NFL-bound running back Leonard Fournette finally, wisely, came to his senses.

The LSU junior announced Friday that he has reversed his field on an earlier decision and will not play in a holiday bowl game at the end of this month. Instead, the 21-year-old from New Orleans St. Augustine High School now will turn his full attention to getting his body and mind right in preparation for the 2017 NFL draft.

Simply, there is nothing more he can prove at LSU.

Touted as a consensus top-10 pick in late April, this unequivocally is Fournette's best move, certainly from a dollars-and-sense standpoint.

Better than any shock-and-awe run he made during a brilliant but injury-plagued collegiate career. And he made many since first arriving in Baton Rouge in August 2014, some of which defied logic and description.

He leaves LSU after accounting for 4,312 yards from scrimmage on 656 touches and scoring 41 touchdowns (40 on the ground) in three seasons.

He leaves LSU without a national championship, SEC title or a Heisman Trophy, lofty team and individual goals that he set for himself as the nation's No. 1 high school recruit from the Class of 2014.

He leaves LSU without a victory -- or a productive outing (145 yards-57 carries-2.54 YPC) -- in three ties against Alabama.

He leaves LSU fans begging for more.

He also leaves LSU after not "getting the opportunity to play to my full potential.''

His words, not mine.

And while Fournette leaves behind many lasting memories, the one burned indelibly in my mind is the one of him standing on the sideline nursing a bum ankle during the final moments of LSU's devastating 16-10 loss to Florida on Nov. 19 at Tiger Stadium.

You remember, when LSU sophomore running back Derrius Guice turned the wrong way and failed to reach the end zone from the 1 as time expired, enabling the underdog Gators to clinch the SEC East and killing the Tigers' chances of possibly earning a berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

That crushing moment turned out to be Fournette's last time in Purple and Gold. That lingering left ankle injury prevented him from playing in the Tigers' season finale at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night.

And yet as the sun now officially sets on Fournette's time at LSU, I can't help but be confused by his thought process in the hours leading up to kickoff of the Florida game.

It apparently took a pre-game incident with Florida players and an assistant coach to motivate Fournette to play against the Gators. Until that exchange of trash talk, Fournette was going to sit out the game because of his injured ankle.

I'm certainly not questioning Fournette's courage or manhood. What I find curious is that Fournett apparently had no intention of playing until the Gators got under his skin. Then, he suddenly became healthy enough to play.

Only Fournette knows the truth.

I'll always wonder what might have been at if Fournette had been able to stay healthy at LSU and if there had been a more stable coaching situation there during his three seasons.

Fact is, we'll never know what he, or any of us, missed.

I suspect Leonard Fournette left a lot more on the sideline and in the training room, too.

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