Winning is pretty much everything for professional athletes, especially when you’re a player like Leonard Fournette who has lost more games over the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars than he has throughout his entire football career from high school to college.
Coming off of a career-year in Jacksonville, Fournette wants to simply build on the success he’s had, while helping his team win. While the team’s workhorse back admits that it takes him a while to get over a loss, often seen compartmentalizing alone in the locker room not long after, he simply wants to win, he says.
“At the end of the day, I want to win,” Fournette said when addressing the media on Monday. “Who doesn’t want to win? I came from a 2017 season with a team who was 10-6, we had talent level and then the next couple of years went down the drain.”
During Fournette’s rookie season in 2017, the Jaguars were one of the best teams in the NFL, making it to their first AFC Title game since 1999, just narrowly losing their chance at a Super Bowl by way of a 20-24 loss to the New England Patriots. Since then, the Jaguars have lost 22 games, while winning just 11 over the past two seasons, a stark contrast to what the team as a whole expected.
“So I just want to address a lot of things, too, especially since the media came out and said I was an angry guy. Number one, would you be angry if you’re losing week in and week out? That is one of my biggest problems, I do get upset when we lose and it takes me awhile to get over it. I expect, just like anybody else, if you put the work in, you want the W, but a lot of times last year it didn’t go like that.”
Last offseason, Fournette spent much of his time in Wyoming working on his craft and preparing his body for the upcoming season. The training and dedication appeared to work after the running back accounted for 1,674 yards from scrimmage, including 1,152 yards rushing (4.3 yards per carry) and 522 yards receiving.
After missing 11 games over his first two seasons due to injuries and a one-game suspension, Fournette would miss only one game - the final game of the season, remaining healthy throughout much of the season while handling the large majority (83%) of the team’s offensive snaps.
While the voyage to the north was successful last year, Fournette has said in the past he doesn’t believe he’ll ever do it again, perhaps a once in a lifetime challenge. This offseason, due to COVID-19, there was a different challenge, however, he was still able to find a way to get the work in, working on his speed, weight, strength and nutrition.
“I was kind of on a world tour,” Fournette said of his offseason. “Wherever the corona was at, I ran away from it. I was in Atlanta at first, it got there. I went back to Baton Rouge, then it came to Baton Rouge. Then I went to Dallas and then after that I just stayed my [butt] home because it kept following me everywhere I went.”
The world tour has finally stopped in Jacksonville where Fournette and his teammates have gathered in anticipation for a very different training camp than ever before seen in the NFL. Already matching up with Jaguars free-agent signee Joe Schobert, Fournette has seen first hand what he might bring to the table, at least after making a play of his own against him.
“I killed him in practice,” Fournette said with a laugh. “I killed him on the wheel route. Ask him what happened on that wheel route. I ran past him and he said ‘ohh.’ What I like about him though is he’s quiet, you have different leaders who show actions. He’s quiet, he plays his role, he’s very athletic. He’s a sideline to sideline guy. He’s very smart, too. He’s definitely a guy I’m going to look out for this upcoming season.”
He’s seen his new teammates, but the most important addition for the Jaguars this offseason might come in the form of offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. The former Washington Football Team head coach is already leaving positive impressions with his new players, including Fournette.
“I think he’s going to let every athlete on the offensive side who has the talent and the ability to make plays - I think he’s going to do a great job of kind of passing that ball around and showing guy’s talent,” Fournette said of Gruden. “He has a great personality and I love him as a coach right now. He’s outgoing and he’s uplifting guys. He’s positive in everything he does.
“He’s smiling, he’s joking 24/7.”