The Seahawks and the Broncos were just about to kick off Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium exactly seven years ago on Tuesday when a high school senior in Louisiana decided to share his dream on social media.
"Can’t wait til I play in that Super Bowl," he wrote.
Leonard Fournette does not have to wait much longer. On Sunday he will be one of the running backs for the Buccaneers, fulfilling that premonition he posted when his team faces Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. It wasn’t a straight line from there to here for him. This season itself has been a zig-zag that began with his getting waived by the Jaguars before Week 1 and now culminates with his playing on the NFL’s biggest stage. Fournette said he was always confident he would fulfil that 2014 prophecy.
Even though, he admitted, he doesn’t remember writing it. Someone else dug it out and he retweeted it just a few days ago.
"It’s crazy how you manifest on things and you can speak it into existence," he said on Tuesday, the anniversary of his prediction. "I’m just blessed with the opportunity I have now to play in this big game. I feel good, man."
When Fournette first foresaw himself in a Super Bowl, he probably envisioned himself as the star running back. That will not be the case on Sunday. He came to Tampa Bay, upset and humbled by his swift departure from Jacksonville, as a backup to Ronald Jones. It was a slow and arduous season for him and his production, but in the second half of the schedule he started to click. Jones was hurt. Fournette and Jones are now a big part of the Buccaneers’ offense.
"When you’re used to participating in the wins as a competitor, I want to feel like I did something to help the team and not just sit on the bench," Fournette, 26, said. "Everything wound up working out in my favor in the end. Me and RoJo make a hell of a 1-2 punch in the backfield."
Fournette finished with just 367 regular-season rushing yards in 2020, but scored six touchdowns. Nearly a quarter of that production came in the last three games of the year when he became the starter. In the postseason, he has rushed for 209 yards on 48 carries in three games.
"It's very, very hard when you're a superstar and you're the focal point of the offense and you come to a [new] team and you're basically a role player for a while," Bruce Arians said of Fournette. "It's a very hard role to accept. I just told him: 'This team is special and you're a huge part of it. Embrace your role. You never know when your role is going to change.' I'm really, really proud of Leonard and the way he's handled it."
Fournette has had other off-field obstacles, too. He’s had those all his life, in fact, going back to being a Katrina survivor in New Orleans as a youngster. He was arrested during the 2019 season for driving with a suspended license and speeding, for which he ultimately paid a fine. He also was suspended for fighting in a game during his time in Jacksonville. The former fourth-overall pick had, after a tremendous burst into the NFL, lost some of his luster.
With the Buccaneers, he has been able to rehabilitate that image.
"I'm just thankful for my journey," Fournette said. "Hopefully, whatever was out there on my name, hopefully, has changed, you know what I mean? Because I'm not the [jerk] that they say I was or things like that. I just love football, and I love winning."
As much now as he did when he was a teenager getting ready to watch Super Bowl XLVIII.
"It’s every athlete’s dream coming out of high school to play in the Super Bowl," Fournette said. "Don’t ever give up on your dream. Hard work pays off at the end of the day. Throughout all the adversity I went through this year I wound up helping my team get there. I feel happy about that."