Joe Burrow admits that the journey at times has been a little crazy.
From rubbing elbows with college football greats at the Heisman Trophy ceremony, to appearing at the White House with his LSU teammates to being in Miami for the Super Bowl, the quarterback has made acquaintances with a growing list of celebrities.
“Martha Stewart. Wayne Gretzky. There’s been a lot of people,” Burrow said. “I met a lot of people at the Super Bowl. It’s been wild.”
Burrow’s historic 2019 season made him and his parents — Robin and Jimmy Burrow — household names to football fans across the country. Burrow set an NCAA record with 65 touchdowns accounted for last season as the Tigers were 15-0 and National Champions.
Burrow was the biggest name in college football, winning the Heisman Trophy by a record margin.
Through the success and the fame, Burrow has remained grounded. He’s the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, but he said he will continue to do what he’s done that led to success at every level.
“I’m not a big, go out and party kind of a guy,” Burrow said. “I always just liked to stay home, watch TV and watch movies, kind of be by myself. So I think it kind of helps me, but it (dealing with the fame) hasn’t been too hard. I have great people around me that help me do it as well.”
The 2015 Athens High School graduate experienced another life-changing moment last Thursday when the Bengals made him the first overall draft choice.
Burrow watched the virtual draft from home, with Robin and Jimmy by his side. The family has put The Plains on the map. A draft record average audience of 15.6 million people across four TV networks watched as Burrow put on his Bengals cap for the first time, and was interviewed minutes later by ESPN’s Suzy Kolber.
A parade of cars drove by the Burrow residence after the selection was made. The hometown kid joined a list of quarterbacks that includes Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning as No. 1 overall selections.
The draft originally was scheduled for Las Vegas before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a virtual draft to take place. Any other year, Burrow would have been at the center of a party in Vegas, then on a plane to Cincinnati to meet his new coaches and organization.
Instead, Burrow remained home the day after the draft, fulfilling his obligations from there as the quarantine continues.
“Just a lot of interviews and a couple of naps, that’s about it,” Burrow said as he described his Friday. “Not doing anything crazy. Just relaxing and getting ready for the next week of workouts.”
Those workouts have taken place in Athens County for the past month. Burrow was training in California before traveling home as the coronavirus became a national issue.
Burrow said the change in plans won’t impact his ability to stay in shape, and get ready for his professional career to start.
“Not too many distractions in a quarantine. So I’m getting good workouts in, running and throwing,” he said. “It’s been a good process for the last couple of weeks. I’ve got a good routine going.”
Burrow tweeted out minutes after the selection that he was ready to get to work, and that was the theme of many of his ensuing interviews.
“I’m very excited about it,” Burrow said of his future with Cincinnati. “In the past it would have been today that I would have been there, so I wish I was there today, but I’m very excited to get started whenever we can. I know things are crazy right now, but I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
It’s that work ethic that allowed Burrow to shatter scoring records as the quarterback at Athens High School from 2012 through 2014, then at LSU the previous two seasons.
Burrow was an instant hit as a sophomore quarterback in Athens’ spread attack, accounting for 60 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards of total offense in 13 games.
Athens was 37-4 in Burrow’s three seasons, winning eight playoff games and appearing in the state championship game in 2014. Athens’ 861 points scored that season is still a record, as Burrow won the Associated Press’ Mr. Football award, as well as being a two-time Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year winner.
“I’m super proud of it and I still hang out with all those guys and look forward to getting back together with them when all of this ends,” Burrow said. “We stay in contact all the time. Something that I’m proud of is we broke the Ohio scoring record, then at LSU we did at the NCAA level as well for the single season. So that’s something I can hang my hat on.”
Burrow said attending Athens City Schools helped prepare him for his future in football. Athens is a blend of the Ohio University, The Plains and Chauncey communities, and Burrow made it a point to get to know as many of his classmates as he could.
“Anybody that knows anything about Athens High, it’s a super socioeconomically diverse high school,” Burrow said. “It made me practice to connect with a lot of different kinds of people. I think that’s really a critical part of being a leader. I think that’s a big way that it has helped me.”
Burrow applied what he learned at Ohio State, where he was a member of the Buckeyes from 2015 through 2017, before his graduate transfer to LSU.
He won the starting job with the Tigers and coach Ed Orgeron, going 10-3 in 2018.
LSU’s national championship squad in 2019 has been talked about as one of the greatest teams in college football history, scoring an NCAA record 726 points. Last weekend’s draft saw 14 Tigers get selected, tied for the most by one school in a single draft since the event went to seven rounds in 1994.
“I’m fired up for those guys,” Burrow said. “I’m locked in on where they’re going. Going to be playing against some of them in our division so that’s going to be exciting, but I think they all worked really hard to get here and I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Linebacker Patrick Queen was drafted in the first round by the Ravens, and safety Grant Delpit went in the second round to the Browns. Linebacker Jacob Phillips was also drafted by Cleveland, in the third round, meaning Burrow will potentially compete against those former teammates twice a year for years to come.
The Bengals had a focus on defense in the rest of the draft — selecting three linebackers — but their second-round pick was Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins.
Burrow’s Tigers beat Clemson 42-25 in the National Championship game, with Higgins catching three passes for 52 yards.
“I’m excited to grow with him for the next however-many years,” Burrow said. “Hopefully it’s a long time. He’s super talented. Big body, fast. I’m excited that he’s going to be a part of this.”
Rookie minicamps won’t happen this year, as NFL facilities remain indefinitely closed. Burrow enters the NFL during an unprecedented time of uncertainty.
In the meantime, Burrow will continue to work to get better, and think of more ways to help Athens County.
His Heisman Trophy speech helped lead to more than $510,000 of donations to the Athens County Food Pantry. With a career in the NFL ahead of him, and the endorsements that come with it, Burrow will be in a position to continue to help his hometown.
“There can always be donations to be made, but I think the most impact we’ll have will be if I put some camps on,” Burrow said. “That’s something that I’ve been thinking about that hopefully can get done in the next couple of years.”
Burrow will always be representing southeast Ohio — his NIKE custom-made ‘740’ shirt on draft night is an example — and now his pro career will head just down the road to Cincinnati.
Local fans will surely flock to Paul Brown Stadium to watch the next chapter of Burrow’s football career. Burrow said he appreciates every fan he has from the ‘740’.
“I hope everyone knows how much I appreciate them,” Burrow said. “I try to show it as much as I can. I’m going to look to give back to the area for years to come and hopefully help a lot of people.”