BATON ROUGE, La. — Junior running back Leonard Fournette’s LSU career is officially done as he and coach Ed Orgeron announced Friday that he will not play in the Citrus Bowl against Louisville.
Fournette is entering next spring’s NFL Draft. He has missed several games this season with a lingering sprained ankle.
“It’s tough for me to sit out,” Fournette said. “(The ankle’s) getting better, but it was just a decision… I’m not a quitter. I tried to play through it the best I could.”
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Orgeron supports Fournette’s decision to sit out the bowl game and helped him come to it.
“Leonard was a great teammate and a joy to coach,” Orgeron said. “Little kids across the country want to be like him. It was a tough decision but he has a bright future ahead of himself. He’ll always be a great Tiger and one of the great players in LSU history.”
Fournette finishes his LSU career ranked fourth in school history with 3,830 rushing yards and 40 rushing touchdowns. He is tops in the school record books with an average of 119.5 yards per game, including five 200-yard performances. Fournette set the single-game school rushing record with 284 yards against Ole Miss this season, though Derrius Guice went on to top that mark in the regular-season finale at Texas A&M.
“Growing up, Leonard wanted to be a LSU Tiger. He bled purple and gold,” Orgeron said. “His senior year (of high school) he was the No. 1 player in the nation and he chose to play football in his home state at LSU, and for that, as a representative of the Tiger family, we are grateful.”
Fournette was a consensus all-American last season and considered one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy heading into 2016.
Instead, he dealt with an injury-plagued campaign.
Fournette was first injured when teammate Donnie Alexander rolled up on his ankle in August training camp. Fournette tried to play through it, but reaggravated the problem against Wisconsin, Auburn, Arkansas and Florida.
“I could have rested for a couple of games and it probably would have been healed by now,” said Fournette, who admitted he rushed back too soon. “But that’s just not me. I’m not built like that. I’m not built to watch someone I love to go to war with, just watch them go fight.”
Unfortunately, sitting and watching will be his last official task as a Tiger. Fournette will stay with the team through the bowl game and be on the sideline against Louisville in the Citrus Bowl. He is also rehabbing for LSU’s Pro Day and said surgery was not necessary for his injury.
Teammates expressed support for the decision.
“We hate to see him have to sit out for this last bowl game, but it’s the best decision for him personally,” said fullback J.D. Moore. “I wouldn’t want anyone to go out and play if they weren’t 100 percent.”
Senior Tre’Davious White, who chose forego the draft to return for his senior season last year, understands why Fournette is handling his own path differently.
“His decision is way tougher than mine,” White said. “Not playing in the bowl game, I know that hurts him. He wanted to contribute to this win that we’re going to get. It’s an unfortunate thing. But I support him in every way.”
Despite the disappointing ending, Fournette has no regrets about his time at LSU.
“My first year here was magnificent. The Ole Miss game when everyone came onto the field, it’s the little things that I can’t forget like that,” he said. “I had my up-and-downs the last two years, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It made me who I am today.”