Sunday’s Postseason NFL Countdown (ESPN at 10 a.m. ET) will feature reporter Jeff Darlington‘s conversation with Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who discusses his record-breaking game in Week 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers — the same team he faces in this weekend’s NFL Divisional Playoffs.
Darlington spoke with Front Row about his preparation for the interview and how “Next Gen” statistics impact sports journalism.
How did you prepare for this interview?
Players like Leonard Fournette are coached to focus only on the task at hand. It is important not to focus merely on the questions you ask but the order you ask them. I had a long talk with our wonderful producer, Dominique Goodridge, a few hours before our interview started. We decided to start with a couple questions about his rookie season as a whole, in order to set the right tone for the interview. We wanted it to be more about Fournette and the symbolism of that Week 5 game – rather than just feeling like he was just doing a post-game press conference about something that happened a few months ago.
Our approach seemed to pay off. Fournette appeared comfortable and clear about our direction. Once we began to ask about the Week 5 Steelers game, he understood our vision for the interview and responded with the type of perspective that made the story compelling.
How much did Fournette know in terms of the historical significance of his Week 5 game against the Steelers?
Sometimes, a record like the one he set (youngest player to rush for a 90-plus-yard touchdown) isn’t realized until the research department digs their teeth into it. Fournette, himself, didn’t know it until the team notified him days later. Here’s one other interesting aspect of that 90-yard run: He hit a peak speed of 22.05 miles per hour, which is the fastest speed run by any running back this year. It’s pretty fun to be able to have a statistic like that, based on the NFL’s new “Next Gen” statistics, and a great example of technology’s impact on our jobs covering football today.
Mac Nwulu contributed to this post.