Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette is a 6-foot, 228-pound battering ram who wears a perpetual scowl while bowling into opponents. He is one of the most physically imposing backs in the league and one who played a huge role in the Buccaneers’ 2020 Super Bowl victory. The NFL tough guy recently switched his jersey number as part of a new NFL policy. His reasoning for the change showed off the softer, more sentimental side of this feared player.
NFL players can switch numbers, but it will cost them
In the 2021 offseason, the NFL loosened restrictions on positional jersey numbers. Prior to the policy change, only quarterbacks, kickers, and punters could wear single-digit jersey numbers. Now, skill position players, defensive backs, and linebackers can join this group.
Rookies or players changing teams in this offseason can wear one of these low-number jerseys with no penalty. Players returning to their 2020 franchise can also switch numbers if they want. However, the catch is that they have to pay the NFL to buy out the remaining stock of jerseys featuring their old number.
For some less popular players, this wouldn’t represent a considerable investment. For other players, though, who are popular with fans and play high-profile positions, the bill from the league reached six figures in some cases.
Tampa Bay’s Leonard Fournette is switching numbers for a sentimental reason
Fournette is one of the NFL players who is switching his jersey number for the upcoming season. Last year, during the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl run, the former Jaguar rocked No. 28, and in Jacksonville the three previous seasons, he wore No. 27.
His new No. 7 jersey is a throwback to his college days where he wore that single digit. It’s more than just an LSU thing for the running back, though. That number is a nostalgic reference to his childhood home, New Orleans’ 7th Ward. As Fournette explained to ESPN:
That’s where I’m born and raised. That’s just me. That’s what I represent. I’m so big on giving back to where I’m from, and it really represents how special that place is to me. … It was a special number to me in college, so I’m like why not wear it again?”Leonard Fournette on his new jersey number
When a player and jersey number have such a special connection, like Fournette does with No. 7, it makes more sense that the player would be willing to spend a few bucks to wear it on his chest.
“Playoff Lenny” Fournette is looking to help the Buccaneers win another Super Bowl
After three productive but controversial seasons in Jacksonville, Fournette made his further south in Florida and landed in Tampa Bay for the 2020 season. Splitting time with Ronald Jones, the running back put up respectable, if unimpressive, regular-season numbers. He ran the ball 97 times for 367 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and scored six touchdowns. The former No. 4 overall draft pick also caught 36 balls for 233 yards.
When Brady and the Bucs hit the postseason, though, that’s when Fournette really stepped up.
The bruising back gained 132 total yards and scored a touchdown against the Washington Football Team in round one. He then went for 107 total yards against the New Orleans Saints while adding a receiving touchdown and 74 yards and another score vs. the Green Bay Packers.
In the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, the soon-to-be “Lombardi Lenny” rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries and caught four balls for 46 yards. He added another touchdown in the Big Game as well.
This year, Leonard Fournette’s regular-season workload will likely be limited again, with Jones returning and former Cincinnati Bengal Giovani Bernard now in the mix. As part of the NFC favorite, though, the new No. 7 will likely play a huge role again when the weather gets cold and the stakes get high in the postseason.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference