Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette carries his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana with him always. The number on his jersey is the most tangible proof. Number seven on the Bucs' roster, Fournette is from the Seventh Ward, proving his love for the city runs deep – deeper than any flood waters the city has been submerged under recently.
After Hurricane Ida hit the southeastern coast of Louisiana last week as a Category Four storm, Fournette wasted no time doing what he could to lift his city back up. He donated $100,000 to relief efforts this past Tuesday and encouraged others via social media to aid local New Orleans charity organizations how they could, including donations of basic necessities. Fournette has now also set up a relief fund, Leonard Cares NOLA. To make your own donation to the fund, click here.
Fournette's ability to help this time around is a direct contrast to his experience with the last major hurricane to hit his hometown – where he was left living on a bridge immediately after Hurricane Katrina decimated his home and neighborhood.
"We had to start all over," Fournette said. "We had to get a new house and things like that. We stayed in Corpus Christi, Texas after leaving New Orleans. That's where we went to, I think it's called like Taft, something like that. So, we went there and kind of had to restart then move back home."
Just 10 years old at the time, Fournette talked about having to loot local pharmacies to get food and medical supplies for his grandparents and seeing dead bodies floating in the water before they were sent to Corpus Christi. He spent months there, attending a local middle school, before his family returned to New Orleans to pick up the pieces and rebuild.
For Ida, Fournette was able to get his family to safety here in Tampa – another thing he's grateful for this time around.
"Everybody's here," Fournette said of his family. "Before the storm, they left. They evacuated. So, everything's going fine right now."
Still, not all were as lucky as the storm knocked out power for over 1 million customers in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Flooding is still a major issue, now extending even into the northeast as the storm continues to dump a record amount of rain in its path. Fournette is now enlisting the help of his teammates to ensure those in need now don't go through the same experience he had a decade and a half ago.
"I want to use my platform to help out my city and everyone that is around Louisiana," he said Thursday. "Unfortunately, we didn't get that. I donated $100,000 out of my own money just to help people out in New Orleans and all over Louisiana, whoever is going through something or whoever needed something. Tomorrow, I'm having a meeting with the team and to see who wants to give something to the funding to help out. That's the big thing. Hopefully, it's successful to help out those who are in need."