You knew it was coming.
From the moment LSU head coach Les Miles announced in a press conference on Tuesday (2:10 mark) that star running back Leonard Fournette sprained his ankle, is wearing a walking boot and is out for an undetermined period of time, the talking heads instantly began making noise.
When they did, a tired, ridiculous and predictable talking point from pro-focused media took center stage.
Fournette himself dispelled this notion when it popped up last October. He also stated his specific focus for this season at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama, when asked about individual accolades.
“My main focus this year is to win a national championship and bring it to Louisiana,” he said.
The last two words of that quote are the most important.
Fournette—a New Orleans native who lived through Hurricane Katrina in 2005—genuinely cares about the state of Louisiana, understands what LSU’s success means to the state and knows what his presence in that equation means to the Tigers in 2016.
That’s why he wasn’t afraid to speak out when the community was going through a difficult time in the wake of the Alton Sterling shooting and the shooting of police officers later in the month of July.
That’s why he went out of his way to do something special and auction off his game jersey for the citizens of Columbia, South Carolina, when the game against the Gamecocks in 2015 had to be moved from Columbia to Baton Rouge in the wake of flooding.
Bringing success and the national spotlight to his home state school matters to Fournette, and he has proven that time and time again.
So now he’s expected to sit out to preserve himself and abandon his community, his teammates and everything he holds dear in order to preserve his own long-term aspirations.
Fournette doesn’t think like that, nor should he.
He cares about much more than himself, and we should all applaud him for that, not tell him he’s bigger than that.
Plus, can you imagine the NFL draft analysts next February in March if he did sit out after all that’s gone on in Baton Rouge this year? They’d have a field day with “selfish Leonard Fournette.”
Even if sitting out was a realistic possibility in his mind, he’d have a hard time overcoming that stigma.
Besides, this doesn’t sound like an ankle injury that will linger a long time and limit Fournette deep into the season, according to Ross Dellenger of the Advocate.
Let’s be clear: Seeing your star in a walking boot is suboptimal. But this time of year, walking boots are handed out like candy to key players who get banged up in practice.
Just this weekend, Georgia starting defensive back Quincy Mauger was spotted in a boot but was back at practice without a non-contact jersey just 24 hours later, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.
Even if Fournette’s injury lingers, Derrius Guice led the SEC in yards per carry among qualifying running backs last year at 8.55, according to CFBStats.com—a full 1.48 yards per carry ahead of Stanley “Boom” Williams of Kentucky in second place.
Either way, he shouldn’t sit out.
College football means too much to him.
Louisiana means too much to him.
His team means too much to him.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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Source: Bleacher Report -SEC Football