Wise Thoughts

Kevin Wiseman

Joe Burrow walked off the field in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday in New Orleans, pointing to his ring finger after yet another touchdown.

The perfect season had the perfect ending.

Burrow quarterbacked Louisiana State University to the College Football National Championship, pulling away for a 42-25 victory over the Clemson Tigers.

Burrow has seemingly been on top of the college football mountain all season, and the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner capped it off with another incredible night en route to a 15-0 final record.

All season long, much has been written and discussed about how much the Tigers’ 2019 season seemed to mirror Athens’ 2014 season, when Burrow was setting records playing for the Bulldogs.

Athens rolled the competition that year, with Burrow throwing 63 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Burrow won the Mr. Football award as the best player in Ohio, and Athens advanced all the way to the state championship game.

The Bulldogs’ high-flying offense was on display inside Ohio Stadium in Columbus that Thursday night back in 2014, but Athens would ultimately end up on the wrong end of a 56-52 shootout against Toledo Central Catholic.

As a sportswriter, you try not to get too emotionally invested in teams or ‘root’ for outcomes during games. But it was hard not to feel a little sting reporting on that state championship game loss. The Bulldogs were the most talented team that I had seen come out of Southeast Ohio, and a state championship was the only fitting way for the group to go out.

But sports don’t always work out like you want them to, as Athens had to settle for the state runner-up trophy that season.

For Burrow, there would be no second-place finish this time around.

Burrow completed 31 of 49 passes for 463 yards, five touchdowns against zero interceptions. He rushed for 58 yards and another touchdown, giving him 521 yards of offense against a Clemson team that came in undefeated as defending national champions.

On the biggest stage college football had to offer, Burrow again was the brightest star.

Burrow didn’t need the championship to validate his worth in the eyes of anyone in Athens County.

But in a postgame interview with ESPN immediately after the game, it was apparent how much Burrow and his family didn’t want another second-place trophy.

“My dad won a Grey Cup in Canada, but there’s kind of this Burrow curse,” Burrow told ESPN’s Maria Taylor. “My brother lost a national championship. My dad lost a couple Grey Cups. I lost a state championship. Both my brother’s lost state championships. This is kind of our first one, so this is super special.”

Burrow’s 2019 season wasn’t just special, it was historic. His 60 touchdown passes is a NCAA single-season record, as is his 77.6 percent completion percentage. His 65 touchdowns accounted for is also another record.

Only five other quarterbacks — Davey O’Brien (1938), Johnny Lujack (1947), Matt Leinart (2004), Cam Newton (2010) and Jameis Winton (2013) — went undefeated while winning the Heisman and a National Title. As good as those players were, they didn’t light up the scoreboard like Burrow and the Tigers.

LSU scored 726 points this season, the most for any team since the AP poll era began in 1936. An argument can certainly be made that no other quarterback in the history of college football has enjoyed a better season than Burrow’s.

All Burrow ever needed was a chance, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron will forever be known as a National Championship winning coach because he took a chance on the Athens County native.

Burrow had a difficult decision to make after spring football in 2018, either stay at Ohio State and risk not playing another season or take the graduate transfer route.

Of course, he announced a decision to leave Ohio State, ultimately landing in Baton Rouge.

Burrow will go down as perhaps the most legendary player to ever wear an LSU Tiger uniform. Ohio State’s loss was LSU’s gain.

While the Buckeyes have enjoyed tremendous seasons the last two years with Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields, they likely cost themselves a national championship by not playing Burrow. The Buckeyes saw something in Burrow that no other major power conference team did when they offered him a scholarship in the spring of 2014, but they didn’t seem to realize just how special he was even after having him in their building for three years.

The arguments can go on forever about what could have been in Columbus if Burrow got the chance to play multiple seasons at Ohio State, but there’s no argument that he found the perfect landing spot in Baton Rouge.

Burrow and LSU were a perfect fit. It allowed the record-setting quarterback to finally have the perfect ending he deserved.

Kevin Wiseman is the sports editor at The Athens Messenger. Send him an email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com.

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