5 things Bengals fans should know about Joe Burrow, NFL draft's top pick

Yahoo Sports

There was no drama early in the 2020 NFL draft. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick, something that’s been considered a certainty in NFL circles for months. Here are five things to know about Burrow, one of the most intriguing characters to enter the NFL in awhile.

Football ties run deep in Burrow family

1) Burrow’s football story starts with family. His father, Jimmy Burrow, was a longtime college football assistant. He played at Nebraska, got drafted by the Green Bay Packers and later played in the CFL. His older brothers, Dan and Jamie, both played at Nebraska, too. 

Burrow lived a majority of his life in the Athens, Ohio, area as Jimmy Burrow was a longtime defensive coordinator for Frank Solich at Ohio University. (He retired before last season to go to all of Joe’s games.) Joe Burrow grew up in the game and was so competitive that early in his career at Ohio State, when he was buried on the depth chart at quarterback, he begged assistant Kerry Coombs to let him play kick coverage on special teams. 

QBs at Ohio State gave Burrow the business

2) Burrow’s beginnings at Ohio State didn’t exactly portend instant stardom. He began in the quarterbacks room with J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller and Cardale Jones. Since J.T.’s first name is Joe, the veterans decided to re-name Joe Burrow – they called him John the entire season. Burrow later confessed that he didn’t love his early experience at Ohio State, telling then-quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, “I hated all you guys.” 

The lesson of Burrow’s rise came with the work he did while no one was looking. He arrived with an awkward and elongated throwing motion, which took infinite drills and post-practice workouts to shorten. (Assistant quarterbacks coach Mike Hartline, a former QB at Kentucky, spent a lot of time with Burrow as he tightened up his motion.) Burrow would throw hundreds of balls after practice every day to tighten up his motion. “Adversity is a key component in building the kind of players to succeed at the next level,” Burrow told Yahoo Sports earlier this year. “I’m forever grateful I went through that adversity.”

Burrow knew how to be himself, including wearing SpongeBob PJs

3) Burrow took the early teasing at Ohio State in stride. And he impressed the high-profile quarterbacks by staying true to his quirky self. (Barrett and fellow backup Stephen Collier remain two of his closest friends.) That meant often wearing SpongeBob pajama pants in the Ohio State facility, wearing superhero T-shirts nearly daily and sucking on caramel apple lollypops. He proudly told his teammates that his hobbies back home included people watching at Walmart. 

[ Shop Burrow’s Cincinnati Bengals jersey here ]

While he endured the growing pains, Burrow never changed. “I wasn’t ready to play at all, and everyone knew it,” Burrow said. “I started from the bottom, and working and working and working. That’s a theme with all the great quarterbacks, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. They didn’t have it easy at any point.”

His first year at LSU wasn’t close to superstar level

4) Burrow’s ascent to stardom didn’t appear imminent after transferring from Ohio State after his third season. He’d lost a close quarterback battle to Dwayne Haskins and decided to leave Columbus. He strongly considered Cincinnati, North Carolina and LSU, ultimately deciding on LSU because it’d help fulfill his goal of competing at the highest level of college football.

In Burrow’s first season at Baton Rouge, with little time to learn the system or get in sync with his teammates, he was much more of a game manager than a star. He completed just 57.8 percent of his passes, threw 16 touchdowns and five interceptions as LSU went 10-3 and won the Fiesta Bowl. Entering the season, NFL teams ballparked him as a potential fifth-round pick. 

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow had a dream season that netted him a Heisman Trophy and a national title. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip).
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow had a dream season that netted him a Heisman Trophy and a national title. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip).

Joe Brady helped unleash Burrow’s talents

5) Everything changed with the most enduring bromance of the 2019 football season: Burrow and coordinator Joe Brady. He brought more pass-friendly schemes that exploited Burrow’s best weapons — his ability to read defenses, anticipate and put his talented receives in place for big plays. 

Burrow threw an NCAA-record 60 touchdowns, won the Heisman Trophy and led LSU to the national title. His most memorable moment may have come at his Heisman Trophy speech, as his mention of hoping to inspire kids back in Central Ohio prompted donations of nearly a half-million dollars to the Athens County Food Pantry.

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