NEW ORLEANS -- Try telling Leonard Fournette's coach that he's one of the five best high school players in America.
"No," St. Augustine Coach Cyril Crutchfield responds. "Actually, it's him and four others."
When ESPN put out its list of the top prep prospects for the 2014 signing class, Leonard Fournette was number one on the list.
Leonard Fournette is a 6-1, 225 running back, and he has it all. Size. Speed. Power. Great hands, and a great work ethic.
Cyril Crutchfield said his challenge is to not overuse Fournette, because giving him the ball is almost always the best option.
Leonard Fournette is so good, LSU adjusted its 2013 recruiting strategy in hopes of landing Fournette in 2014.
"We decided not to take a tailback," LSU head coach Les Miles said at his signing day press conference in February. "We will need a great one, one of those guys who has great speed, and ball skills and can run with power, and I'm thinking of him right now."
By NCAA rules, Les Miles is not allowed to mention Fournette by name, but it was a clear reference to the New Orleanian.
"I was at practice," Leonard Fournette said. "When I got to my phone, I had beaucoup missed calls from my family, my mother and my father. So, when I called them back, it was something like, Mr. Les Miles, he made a statement about you, and I was like, what are you talking about? He said he didn't want any running backs for 2013."
Leonard Fournette said he laughed it off, but "it was a big statement. I was surprised. Because not every college program does that."
LSU isn't alone in its pursuit of Leonard Fournette. He's already had more than 100 full scholarship offers from every major football program in America.
"When it first hit me, I was shocked," Leonard Fournette said. "Now, I'm kind of used to the whole process."
That recruiting process began for Leonard Fournette in ninth grade, but the recruiting of Fournette is not like the recruiting of any other bigtime player in the country, because the men recruiting Leonard Fournette understand where he comes from.
LSU'S recruiting coordinator is Frank Wilson, who's highly respected and as good as it gets. Frank Wilson went to St. Aug.
Alabama's recruiting coordinator is Burton Burns, who's highly respected and as good as it gets. Burton Burns went to St. Aug.
No big-time recruit in America has two top-flight recruiters from their high school recruiting them, except Leonard Fournette.
"We're extremely proud at St. Aug of the young men that we produce," Tony Biagas said, "and Burton and Frank are both outstanding examples of that."
Biagas coached St. Augustine High School for 17 years. He coached Frank Wilson. He coached alongside Burton Burns.
Wilson's and Burns' head coaches, Les Miles and Nick Saban, have each personally visited St. Augustine High School this school year, and they're not alone. Lane Kiffin of Southern Cal has visited, and Brian Kelly of Notre Dame, and Mack Brown of Texas, and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M and Will Muschamp of Florida.
In fact, the man recruiting Leonard Fournette for the Gators is their tight ends coach Derek Lewis, who also went to St. Aug.
"Derek at St. Aug, was almost like a coach on the field," Tony Biagas said of his former player. "He's another example of a guy that you would love to send your son to be coached by."
Leonard Fournette has multiple bigtime, well-respected coaches from his high school recruiting him.
"I attribute that to this institution," head football coach Cyril Crutchfield said. "That speaks volumes for this institution for what they're producing as young men, from here in the city of New Orleans."
And by all indications, Leonard Fournette fits that mold too. Fournette is polite and respectful and appears about as grounded as an 18-year-old, who's being told everyday how great he is, could possibly be.
"He's definitely grounded and rooted in teamwork," Cyril Crutchfield says of his star player.
"I don't go around bragging, talking about this and that, that I got the scholarships," Fournette added. "I'm a normal teenager. I'm just trying to live my life."
"I don't know what to tell them, other than he's a great young man," Cyril Crutchfield said of his conversations with college coaches. "There's much more to Leonard Fournette than what you see on the football field. He's probably one of the most down to earth young men that you're ever going to come across. He would add value to your program because he's a young man with a lot of character and integrity, and that's what's going to take him beyond football." Largely because of his character and how he handles himself, the Leonard Fournette story and how it plays out this fall, including the men recruiting him, could be huge for a school hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.
"St. Aug. has always been cornerstone of the community here in the city of New Orleans, and in particular, it's been a flagship school for the black community here in the city," Tony Biagas said of his alma mater. "The school took a big hit, population wise and talent wise. I think it's a very important year in terms of getting St. Aug back to the top where it should be, I believe."
The publicity, Biagas said, will lead to more young men taking a serious look at St. Augustine.
"It's going to draw attention to the academics, to the arts to the speech and debate teams," Biagas said. "It's going to draw attention to all aspects of St. Aug, and that's a wonderful thing. That's always happened in the past, and I'm glad it's happening once again."
"It's definitely good for the program, for the institution of St. Augustine and what it was built upon," Cyril Crutchfield added. "This Leonard Fournette phenom, what it has produced - is a lot of attention for a lot of young men that are on our team."
And the Leonard Fournette Story will play out for nine more months. Fournette says he's still wide open. He hasn't eliminated any schools or decided on any of his NCAA-allowed five official visits.
"I have a lot of great schools," Leonard Fournette said, "and I'm still figuring out which is the best choice for me, so I'm going to wait it out."
He'll wait it out through football season.
"My parents told me, whatever decision I make, they're fine with it, so it's really up to me," Fournette said.
The question, will St. Aug alums Frank Wilson, Burton Burns and Derek Lewis have an advance, an inside track, in landing Leonard Fournette?
"I think so," Tony Biagas answered. "Those three choices: LSU, Alabama, Florida, how could you go wrong? How could you top those three? A kid would have a helluva decision choosing between those three schools, but it doesn't matter what choice he makes. It's gonna be the right choice."
Fournette says he just wants to go to a school where he feels special.
"It's going to come to me," Fournette said. "When I have that special vibe, that's all."