Fournette apologizes to Rummel for no handshake after playoff loss
St. Augustine’s outstanding running back Leonard Fournette gained admiration during his senior season by his thoughtfulness off the field more so than for his rushing and scoring with a football under his arms.
When the mother of a teammate suddenly died during the season, Fournette honored his friend by wearing his No. 86 jersey instead of his own No. 5.
When the Quarterback Club of New Orleans presented him with the Prep Football Player of the Year plaque at the end of the 2013 season, Fournette accepted the award, and in his most humbling manner, announced, “I thank you, but I don’t deserve this because I didn’t lead my team to a state championship.”
With that, he took the award to where East Jefferson quarterback Eugene Wells was seated in the audience and handed it to him for leading the Warriors to a 38-28 victory over Edna Karr in the Class 4A title game.
People saw a much different side of Fournette on the night of the Division I semifinal round game against Archbishop Rummel; what they observed was a darker side. His St. Augustine team was riding high, ranked No. 1 in its class, when it met the Raiders for the second time in the season. Fournette and the Purple Knights prevailed, 35-21, to clinch the District 9-5A title earlier in the month.
But it was a different story on the night of the semifinals when the two collided again. Rummel overcame a deficit to defeat the Knights, 31-28, in the waning moments of the game. While the jubilant Raiders celebrated, Fournette lay on the Joe Yenni Stadium turf staring at the sky in disbelief. His dream of winning a state title in his senior season had abruptly come to an end.
Fournette did not join his teammates in the traditional post-game congratulatory line. He walked alone to the locker room.
The Raiders went on to defeat Byrd High, 23-22, for the Division I championship the next week, their second straight title. Fournette was in the Dome to watch the first two games on that day, but left before Rummel and Byrd played. He couldn’t bear to watch it.
The real Fournette re-emerged on Thursday, of all places, before an assembly of the Rummel student body to be present for the presentation of the championship trophy to the students. His St. Augustine principal and former Rummel science teacher, John Charles, called him to the podium. He and other key figures in the St. Augustine administration graciously shared the moment that was not theirs.
In a quiet, matter-of-factly tone, Fournette faced the Rummel football players in the gymnasium bleachers and said, “I want to apologize to the football team for not shaking anybody’s hand after the game. I was emotional and I apologize,” he said.
“Even though we lost the game, congratulations to you all and I wish you all the best at the next level.” The Rummel students applauded loudly in response
For Fournette, that next level will be as a freshman at Louisiana State University, to which he will sign a grant next month.
“As (Rummel president) Brother Gale (Conduit) said in his address, we are all brothers,” Charles told the assembly. “And when we compete, we do it because this is how we all become better and make each other better through competition. And when the competition is over, we reach out and continue to support one another.”