JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Leonard Fournette made plays on the field and news off the field as one of the team’s most recognizable and talked-about players.
Born and raised in Louisiana, the running back was a polarizing player: some loved Fournette, others disagreed with his demeanor. Either way, his departure from Jacksonville is already making an impact.
“I like guys that, I guess, like to score,” said Vita Hope, a Jaguars fan who’s had season tickets since Day 1 and has only ever missed one home game.
Needless to say, Hope wants the team to win and now they’ll have to do it without a powerful offensive force.
“I don’t think he had a choice, did he?,” she said. “No. They did not want him to stay there. It’s a hole that we’re gonna have to try to fill, but I’m not upset, no.”
The Jaguars let the LSU standout go Monday morning. He’ll join a long list of first-round draft picks to part ways with the team only a few seasons into his young career.
“It’s big loss,” said Mathew Smith, whose family owns and runs Sports Mania in Jacksonville Beach. “We’re sitting on hundreds of jerseys between Nick Foles, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and now Leonard Fournette.”
The family business is already feeling the pain: more jerseys he bought that likely won’t ever sell.
“Without Leonard Fournette, somebody we know we’re going to sell jerseys for, that’s $30,000 in sales,” he said.
Reluctantly, Smith said, the jerseys of former players either go on sale or to the graveyard of former Jaguars merchandise: a storage area nestled in the back of the store.
Smith said business is already suffering dramatically with the COVID-19 pandemic and fall games with few if any fans. He said he was hoping people would continue to support small businesses and buy memorabilia from now-departed players as collector’s items.
But he knows the business won’t recoup what was spent on former players’ jerseys.
No. 27 had a career of ups and downs here: from the fourth overall pick in 2017 to big touchdowns in the team’s playoff run later that year. Fournette also made news off the field: suspended for fighting in 2018, arrested for speeding and driving with a suspended license in 2019. He pleaded no contest in that case.
Fournette also gained attention for organizing and leading a Black Lives Matter march in June with many of his teammates, pushing for social justice and equality. Hundreds took part.