COMMENTARY: College athlete shows character by giving to South Carolina

COMMENTARY: College athlete shows character by giving to South Carolina
October 29
00:00 2015

By James B. Ewers Jr.

College football season is in full swing. Touchdowns and first downs are being made all across the country by both favorites and underdogs. First-time freshmen have stars in their eyes as they are seeing the big difference between high school football and college football.

Football teams at all divisional levels are trying to win championships and reach bowl games. By now some teams have an idea about how their season is going to turn out.

Fans are tailgating and season ticketholders are enjoying every game. The weather is perfect for football, and we want more of it.

Each year college football writers and pundits put out a list of players and teams that we should watch. Of course, if you watch a lot of Division I football, you will hear the names Ohio State, TCU, Alabama and Louisiana State University.

One player that has garnered a lot of national attention is Leonard Fournette, a running back for LSU. He is in his sophomore season there after having a terrific first year.

Some say that St. Augustine High School has long been a football powerhouse in the state and has sent its share of players to both college and to the NFL. They have also had some of their games televised by ESPN. So Leonard Fournette has followed a number of great student-athletes from this venerable high school.

Leonard Fournette has not disappointed the Tiger faithful this year. LSU is undefeated and Fournette is running over, around and through would-be tacklers. For example, during a three game stretch, he was averaging over 200 yards per game. Usually averaging 100 yards per game gets you noticed but Fournette has taken it to a whole new level.

Recently, LSU played the University of South Carolina in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, because of flooding and hurricane conditions in Columbia, South Carolina, home of USC.

Leonard Fournette rushed for 158 yards in LSU’s victory over South Carolina. All of the monetary proceeds went to the hurricane relief fund set up in South Carolina, which was under a state of emergency.

What happened immediately after the LSU-USC game was one of the most poignant and heart-warming moments you will ever see at a college football game. Just as the television reporter was getting ready to interview Fournette about the victory, he pulls out a prepared statement and begins to read it.

In the statement, he expresses his empathy and deep concern for the citizens of the state of South Carolina because of the hurricane and the mass destruction that it has brought. Fournette goes on to state that he fully understands what they are going through because of what he, his family and the city of New Orleans went through with Hurricane Katrina.

The NCAA has approved Leonard Fournette’s plan to auction off his No. 7 jersey that he wore in the game.

I was surprised. For him to think of the plight and perils of others when cheers and accolades are coming his way was an act of unquestionable maturity and sensitivity. As a nation, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Leonard Fournette used the aforementioned statement in a meaningful and purposeful way.
Sometimes college student-athletes only think about the final score. After all, in sports competition, you only win or you lose. There is no gray area. So our hearts become full when we see a young man like Leonard Fournette who sees life’s big picture.

In order for Fournette to show that kind of love to people that he has never met, you can tell that his family and friends love him.

I have never met Leonard Fournette, yet I believe he has exemplary character. This attitude of caring demonstrated by him after the game was molded and shaped by his family at home. The teachers and coaches at St. Augustine High School further crafted it. Let us not forget the spiritual influence in his life that obviously has become one of his guiding principles.

College athletics is big business and is composed of young men and women who are combining rigorous academics and their chosen sport. There are a lot of us who went through the process years ago. It requires self-discipline and an uncompromising commitment to excellence both on and off the playing field. It is not easy so that is why the term “student-athlete” has such a strong meaning.

Leonard Fournette has a bright future at LSU and at the professional football level as well. However, his future as a caring and productive person is even brighter.

Let us cheer for Leonard Fournette on Saturdays, not just because he is a talented football player, but because he is also a solid citizen with great character.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C Smith University where he was all-conference for four years.
He is the President Emeritus of The Teen Mentoring Committee of Ohio and a retired college administrator. He can be reached at

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