The Untold Truth Of Joe Burrow

They don't come much cooler than Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. The seemingly unflappable signal-caller led the Bengals out of their three-decades-long playoff winless streak with stellar performances throughout the 2022 NFL postseason.

While known for having ice in his veins on the field, Burrow has courted attention off of it for his relaxed style that harkens back to the days of another Joe famous for playing under center: "Broadway" Joe Namath. One of the most defining images of Burrow's young career is one taken after winning the 2019 National Championship. In it, a still in uniform Burrow sat legs-crossed puffing away on a victory cigar, before fielding questions at the post-game press conference. It's a cliché to say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case, it seems to illustrate the level-headedness that Burrow has shown on the field time and time again, and the way he's a throwback to a bygone-era of quarterback.

But Burrow's journey to success wasn't easy and it certainly wasn't straightforward. It took some risk-taking and guts to get to where he is.

Burrow was an impressive athlete from the start

Per the Cincinnati Bengals, Burrow hails from Athens, Ohio, a town that sits in the southeastern part of the state and is about two-and-a-half hours from Cincinnati. Football runs through the Burrow family bloodline. Burrow's father, Jimmy, played college football at the University of Nebraska before playing professionally in both the NFL and CFL (via the Omaha World-Herald). The elder Burrow would move into coaching with stops At Washington State, Iowas State, North Dakota State, and finally Ohio State, where he served as defensive coordinator and retired in 2018.

Joe Burrow played football for his school's team at Athen's High and was an absolute standout. During his high school career, Burrow amassed a jaw-dropping 11,400 passing yards and 157 passing touchdowns. That doesn't mean Burrow ignored his feet because he used them to rush for 2,000 yards and 27 more touchdowns.

This helped the Burrow-led Athen's High School Bulldogs make three playoff appearances and win seven playoff games, including the first one in school history. On the hardwood, Burrow was also a standout point guard, earning first-team all-state honors.

It should come as no surprise that upon leaving high school, Burrow had a laundry list of college suitors which, per NCAA, included among others Boston College, Iowa State, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, and — somewhat ironically — Cincinnati. Another school that showed interest was Ohio State, and that's where Burrow decided to start his college career.

An Inauspicious start at Ohio State

Burrow began attending Ohio State in 2015 where he red-shirted his first season. After that Burrow would only make sporadic appearances on the field in 2016 and 2017, according to NCAA after losing the starting job to J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. He appeared in five games for the Buckeyes in each of those seasons, and a total of touchdowns and only 287 yards.

However, he still looks back on his time in Columbus as a positive experience, saying in 2022 (via Buckeyes Wire), "I wouldn't be the same player that I am today without those trials and tribulations that I went through there. I loved my time there, I stay in contact with a lot of people from Ohio State and, like I said, I wouldn't be the same player. I think I am who I am because of the difficult times that I went through in my career, and if you look at all the quarterbacks that were in the playoffs, a lot of them have gone through a lot of adversity in their careers."

Burrow graduated from Ohio State in only three years, even interning at Goldman-Sachs in 2016, according to the Cincinnati Bengals. Burrow decided to bet on himself and transfer in a bid for a starting job.

Burrow heads to LSU

Burrow had interest from several schools upon announcing his intention to become a grad transfer. One school that took a look at him was his father's alma mater, Nebraska, a school at which his brothers also played for, per the Cincinnati Bengals. However, according to Sporting News, when asked about Burrow as a potential option as quarterback in 2018, Nebraska's head coach now infamously responded, "You think he's better than what we got?" This was in reference to then Nebraska starter Adrian Martinez, who in the two seasons after that quote was made racked up only 4,573 passing yards and 27 touchdowns, totals Burrow would eclipse in his final season of college football alone.

According to Sports Illustrated, Burrow was leaning toward becoming a Cincinnati Bearcat when a meeting with then-LSU head coach, Ed Orgeron, swayed him into becoming an LSU Tiger. To say it was a decision that would work out fairly well for both parties would be an understatement.

Burrow wins a National Championship and a Heisman

Burrow's first season with LSU was decent, yet unremarkable. With appearances in 13 games, he amassed 2,894 yards and 16 passes. This was done as part of an LSU offense that Buckeyes Wire noted at the time tended to favor the running game. The team would seemingly make an adjustment in that respect and put a greater emphasis on Burrow's arm in 2019.

It worked because Burrow's 2019 season was hugely successful. His stat line practically exploded: 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns, with only 6 interceptions. This was good enough to lead LSU to an undefeated season which included both an SEC championship and a National Championship (via Sports Reference). Burrow also won the Heisman Trophy that year as college football's outstanding player. In short, 2019 was the season that Joe Burrow caught the attention of both fans and scouts alike, and sent him skyrocketing up NFL draft boards. Sure enough, his time as a Bayou Bengal is what led to Burrow being selected first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2020 NFL Draft.

A rough start in Cincy to a Super Bowl appearance

Everyone knows that teams don't have the first pick in the draft because things have been going gangbusters for them. Such was the case for the Cincinnati Bengals, who at the time they drafted Burrow hadn't won a playoff game since the 1990 season. So it should come as no surprise that success in the Joe Burrow-era of Bengals football was not immediate. The 2020 season saw the Bengals posting a 4-11-1 record that would plant them at the bottom of the AFC North division, per Pro Football Reference.

2021 was different. Very different. Burrow would throw for over 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns leading the Bengals to a first-place finish in their division. Burrow's first playoff appearance would go well, helping the team defeat the Las Vegas Raiders and secure their first playoff victory in over 30 years. A road victory over the top-seeded Tennessee Titans would be followed with another impressive road win, this time in overtime over the Kansas City Chiefs. This clinched the AFC Championship — the franchise's first since 1988 — and a trip to Super Bowl LVI.