Lombardi Leonard Fournette and the season that almost wasn’t

Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Consider if you will the roller coaster ride that was the 2020 National Football League season from the perspective of one Leonard Fournette. Weeks before the season was supposed to kick off, the bell-cow running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars found himself on the outside looking in.

The organization didn’t want him. At that point, he wasn’t Lombardi Lenny, he wasn’t even playoff Lenny, and from his perspective, any such praise was likely a long way out of his thoughts.
His thoughts must have been what do I do now? Here I am a great running back and my team just dumped me and the season is about to begin and I have no team to play on and little hope to find one this late in the game.

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Enter one Devin White, a fellow LSU Tiger who just so happened to remember Fournette from when White was a freshman and Fournette was getting ready to make a splash in the NFL draft. White, thinking that the team he happened to be playing for, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, could certainly use a north-south runner like Fournette to help bolster what the Bucs felt might be a special season. After all, they already hired the GOAT, Tom Brady, and the GOAT’s favorite target, Rob Gronkowski. Even though White knew they had a number one running back in Ronald Jones, there had to be room for another solid player.

Sure enough, it worked out and Fournette signed a one-year deal to cast his lot with the Buccaneers. He walked into his new situation knowing upfront that his new Head Coach, Bruce Arians, was sold on Jones being the number one back, and with good reason. Jones had shown a lot of positive after the horrible freshman season he had, and things were looking good for the third-year back.

Still, Fournette probably felt that with his skills, his record of success with his former team, and his having been a number FOUR selection in the 2017 draft, he would easily supplant Jones as the top running back in short order.

That didn’t happen though. In fact, Fournette didn’t show too much of anything in the early going. Jones was having his fun, and Fournette, we suppose, sat on the sidelines hoping that he would get a shot.

The shot he got happened on December 13th against the Minnesota Vikings. That was the game that Fournette, who was healthy at game time, was scratched from the lineup. For certain, nothing like that had ever happened to him. Imagine how it must feel? Some of us fans may have experienced a similar feeling when we were overlooked on a team that we knew we could play for. Or didn’t get a chance to play a position we were good out, because that was the coach’s son’s position.

Fournette was in a funk!

For certain, he was in a funk. He had always been THE MAN in every level of football he had ever played on. It was always him that came through in need, in the clutch, and now on the bench. How could it be, he probably wondered?

At that point, the NFL media started to churn out their negative stories. How Fournette wasn’t happy. How he might leave the Bucs. How he might be pouting.

Be that as it may, the media writes what it wants, but one thing is for sure, there was no lower point for Fournette than that game. There are two things to do in that situation. One, you just say screw it and become a cancer to the team and in the locker room until the coaches have had enough and send you packing. Or two, you take the approach that Leonard took and go and talk with the Big Man! Jason Licht to the rescue.

Times like that are when men do men things. Licht knew Fournette wasn’t happy with his playing time and that some of that had been getting into his play and his attitude. He let him know what he needed to hear. He let Lenny know that he was needed on the team, but that his role on the team wasn’t what he had when he played in Jacksonville. In the end, he gave Fournette something to think about.

After that talk, he did what real men always do. He went home. He thought about the conversation. He thought about the season, and he shed some ego. He then picked himself up, dusted himself off, and evolved into what would become Lombardi Lenny. It didn’t start fast, but he built it up over time. From a game to the playoffs, to Jones missing time, to Lenny doing Lenny things as he helped spearhead the Bucs through the playoffs and into SuperBowl LV history. It takes a man to look into the mirror and realize what he needs to do some house cleaning in order to become an even bigger man. And that’s the kind of player who earns nicknames like Playoff Lenny and Lombardi Lenny.