If Tampa Bay running back Leonard Fournette ever tires of spending his Sundays being tackled, he may have a future on the motivational speaking circuit. In addition to his arms and legs, the Bucs needed Fournette’s words to rally them after they fell behind by 10 points in the first half.
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“He spoke at halftime, got us going, then came out there and backed it up with all the stuff he was talking about,” linebacker Shaq Barrett said of Fournette’s halftime speech.
He backed it up, all right. His halftime pep talk — and his four touchdowns — propelled Tampa to its second straight win, 38-31.
Despite two first-half touchdowns from Fournette (one on the ground, one through the air), the Bucs struggled to consistently move the ball or stop Indy from doing the same. Their poor effort inspired Fournette to go all Knute Rockne in the locker room before the start of the second half.
“I was like, ‘You have to have a will and a want,'” said Fournette. “‘You have to be willing to risk everything. Play by play, you have to want to win, you have to want to fight, each and every play.’ I think they understood that message and played their lights out.”
Fournette continued: “You could tell the mood — people’s energy was down. And it wasn’t like we [were] out there getting our asses whooped. It’s just the little things separating us to win the game from them. So just trying to boost everybody coming out. And thank God it worked.”
Now in his second season with Tampa, Fournette wasn’t just talking the talk, he was walking the walk. He finished with 100 rushing yards, seven receptions and four total touchdowns.
The combination of Fournette’s game and gab ultimately led the Buccaneers to outscore Indy 24-7 over the game’s final two quarters.
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“We were all watching him run and just do great things with the ball. It energizes us on the sideline,” added defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. “We see him running, going hard, and it makes us wanna play better.”
Next up on the Fournette speaking tour: Atlanta, which will host the touchdown-scoring Ted Talk from Tampa next Sunday afternoon.