NEW ORLEANS — Leonard Fournette and Speedy Noil will be wearing purple and gold at LSU on Saturday.
But don’t read too much into that, recruitniks.
Fournette, the running back from St. Augustine, and Noil, the wide receiver from Karr, ranked the nation’s No. 1 and 8 football prospects by ESPN, will be sporting their high school colors, both, coincidently purple and gold, in the Class 4A state track championships at LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium.
Fournette is in the 100 and 200 meters along with the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. Noil, hampered by an ankle injury suffered a Nike camp last month, is in the long jump and 4x100 but missed qualifying in the triple jump, in which he has the state’s top mark.
And while a curious few might be checking out the meet just to see the two in the flesh, for Fournette and Noil it’s a not a day when whether or not someday they’ll suiting up in Tiger Stadium is on their agendas.
“I’m leaving the recruiting stuff up to my parents right now,” Fournette said. “And I won’t focus on football until track season’s over.”
Echoed Noil, who, like Fournette, has said he won’t commit until January, “I’ve put football and recruiting on the side.”
It’s not always easy.
At last week’s regional meet, Noil was wearing a pair of purple LSU socks (“They don’t make any Karr socks, or I’d have been wearing them”) and when some snapped a photo of the Karr relay team and then put a cropped version online featuring only Noil and his socks, he received several text messages congratulating him on his choice of schools.
Actually, LSU isn’t even in Noil’s top three right now — that’s Southern California, Florida and Texas A&M. But in the digital age, recruiting rumors can run rampant.
“I just try to ignore it,” Noil said. “Nobody knows how I really feel but my mother, my grandmother and my aunt.”
Similarly, Fournette does his best to make the recruiting hullabaloo just so much white noise.
That’s where track comes in.
They’re going to be playing on Saturdays in 2014 and quite possibly Sundays a few years down the road. But right now, they’re high school juniors representing their schools.
“More than anything else, I want to help Karr win the state championship,” Noil said. “Any time I’m representing this school in any sport I try to be the best I can be and help us come out with the victory.”
Said Fournette, “I love the competition. Who wants to be second or third?
“Everybody wants to be first.”
Until this season, Fournette had been somewhat of a reluctant thinclad. But it’s finally kicked in that it was an ideal conditioning too.
At 225 pounds, 10 shy of his football playing weight, Fournette is hardly the ideal size for a sprinter. He outweighs Noil by 45 pounds.
However, his 200 regional mark of 21.57 seconds is tops in 4A and his 10.68 in the 100 is only .02 off the best time. The Purple Knights’ 4x200 relay is No. 1 at 1:26.83 and the 4x100’s 41.35 is second to Karr’s 41.37.
“I don’t know how much faster he’d be if he weighed about 20 pounds less,” St. Aug Coach Darren Dixon said. “The main thing is that this year Leonard’s been consistent about coming to practice and doing the right things.
“And you’ve seen his times drop every week. You can tell he knows what it takes to win.”
Noil, as his nickname indicates, has been track-oriented since he was a youngster, although he credits his track training with his trademark explosiveness on the football field.
“It helps keep me in shape,” he said. “I always want to be the fastest one on my football team.”
No matter how things turn out Saturday, both Fournette and Noil should take pride in their dedication to track.
While most elite prep athletes specialize, they’ve chosen a second sport not just for the personal benefit but to help their teams win a state championship.
“Track isn’t for everybody,” Noil said. “A lot of guys won’t do it because they know if you just play around with it you’re not going to be successful.
“I take everything to heart. We were No. 1 in football and we’re going to be No. 1 in track.”