Running back Leonard Fournette wanted to show two things at LSU’s Pro Day on Wednesday: His hands are soft, his body is not.
Those have been two of the most-often-discussed topics regarding Fournette, a likely top-10 pick in the NFL draft and the player projected more often than any other as the Carolina Panthers’ selection at No. 8.
Fournette showed up to February’s NFL scouting combine at a whopping 240 pounds. Despite that, he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, and did not re-run the 40 at his pro day.
Fournette weighed in at 228 pounds – his college playing weight – on Wednesday, according to the LSU athletic department.
“My mom has been on me about what I’m eating,” Fournette joked. “I just wanted to show everybody that I can lose the weight. I can play at the weight I want to. That’s it.
“I think some (teams) wanted to see if I could get down to that size. I think it was a plus for me. ... I might be 250 playing, so I just wanted to show them that I can do what I need to do to get my business in order.”
Fournette also ran a few routes and caught all of the five passes directed at him – two short routes, two mid-range and one long.
While Fournette’s stunning run-through-and-drag-behind style means he won’t really be a pass-catching back in the NFL, it helps to have some versatility. Five routes is not a large enough sample size to gauge Fournette’s receiving ability, but it likely helped soften some doubts.
Also lurking around Fournette have been worries about his ankle, which is just fine thanks, according to Fournette.
“Yeah, I’m 100 percent,” he said.
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron agreed, citing Fournette’s apparent ease when changing direction in drills as proof.
“His ankle, to me, looked 100 percent,” said Orgeron, who spoke after pro day concluded. “I’m not a doctor, but it looked great.”
Fournette’s ankle hindered his play in 2016, when he rushed for 843 yards after a stellar 1,900-yard season in 2015 that earned him a spot in the Heisman conversation. Fournette said that some teams respected the fact that he played through that injury.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman were not present for Fournette’s workout, but a source told the Observer that Fournette will be in Charlotte next week to meet with the team. Among the Panthers coaches present Wednesday were offensive coordinator Mike Shula, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, running backs coach Jim Skipper, linebackers coach Al Holcomb and offensive line coach John Matsko.
Fournette ran position and footwork drills under direction of Skipper.