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View from the O-Zone: A whirlwind day, a blessed day


JACKSONVILLE – He has experienced days far different than this, but this …

Well, let's just say that for Leonard Fournette, this was a good day – a very good day.

This was, after all:

*The first day of the rest of his life, his first with his new NFL team …

*A day with his mother, father and daughter at EverBank Field …

*A chance to hold his new jersey, to see his new number (No. 27), to smile, to think of the future …

Yes, Fournette – the physically imposing, ultra-impressive running back from Louisiana State – toured the 'Bank Friday, a day after the Jaguars selected him No. 4 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. This was Intro Presser day – and as such, Fournette and his family flew from Philadelphia to Jacksonville Friday morning, then flew home to New Orleans shortly thereafter.

It was a whirlwind day – a day after a dream came true.

"It's a pleasure to be here," Fournette said in a press conference in the team meeting room at 'the Bank. "It's my newest family. … I'm like a freshman again.

"It's a blessing to be here in this position, and I'm ready to work."

Fournette smiled as he spoke, flanked by Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell. Caldwell and Marrone smiled, too. They had gotten their guy.

"We think he's a special player, but we also think he's a special person," Caldwell said.

Images of 2017 first round pick Leonard Fournette arrives at EverBank Field for the first time as a Jacksonville Jaguar.

Marrone talked about toughness, as he often does. Fournette at 6-feet-0, 228 pounds surely will bring that to the Jaguars – to the offense on the field, and with his approach off it.

"He likes tough coaching," Marrone said with a smile. "I told him, 'I can't wait. I'm looking forward to it.' And I told his parents, too."

Also smiling to the side was his family -- his father, Leonard Jr.; his mother, Lory; his two-year-old daughter, Lyric – and make no mistake:

This family is a close family, one that has seen far different days than this. It's a family that endured living on an Interstate 10 bridge for four days and five nights in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Fournette was 10 years old at the time. He said Friday he didn't remember every detail of the experience.

He does remember more than enough to know one thing.

"It made me who I am," Fournette said.

Fournette said the same is true of a lot of guys from Louisiana. He said it made him tougher, gave him tough skin. That's also why Fournette talked shortly after the draft about a connection to New Orleans, about wanting to give back to that community.

"My environment made me who I am," Fournette said. "I always stuck to my roots, my foundation and stood there."

This is that kind of person, that kind of family, that kind of story. It's also the story of a kid who would have been shaped by family with or without Katrina. Fournette on Friday talked of Leonard Jr. getting Leonard III and his little brother, Lanard, up early on mornings to run. He talked of not always wanting to run, but doing it anyway. And he talked of the process making him a better player.

"Everything starts with him," Leonard III said of Leonard Jr.

Yes, it's that kind of family, that kind of story, and that kind of player.

It's easy to root for Fournette, and it was easy to watch him Friday on the first day of his professional football life and see this was an experience more like a dream than reality.

Sure, Fournette long has known this day likely would come. He was the highest of high-profile recruits entering LSU, and it was quickly apparent he was that good. And since early in a 1,953-yard sophomore season, it was apparent that he would sit in the green room on the night of the NFL Draft and that there would be an introductory press conference the following day somewhere.

Pressure to succeed has been real for Fournette almost since he can remember. Always, he has thrived under it. And always he has pretty much known if all went as planned the NFL would be a reality.

"I don't know; maybe it was destined for me," Fournette said late in Friday's press conference. "My mother always told me I was chosen, special from God. Hard work comes from it,

No, destiny isn't always fulfilled. And dreams don't always become reality. Work comes with it, and sometimes when the work is done comes a day such as Friday.

Indeed on Friday, the plan came to fruition for Fournette and the dream became real. And for this family, and this player, that made Friday a memorable part of the story.

And it made Friday a very good day.

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