Here are 10 interesting things you probably didn’t know about the Cincinnati Bengals’ star quarterback.
Burrow’s rise to stardom began at LSU. But for his father and two older brothers, their paths to success started at Nebraska.
Joe’s father, Jim Burrow — a former defensive back — played for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He was even drafted 218th overall by the Green Bay Packers in 1976. Jim played one season there, but he actually had most of his success in the CFL — winning the Grey Cup with the Montreal Alouettes in 1977. Burrow was also a two-time CFL All-Star.
After his playing career, Jim Burrow enjoyed a college coaching career that spanned nearly four decades. This included a two-year stint at Nebraska from 2001 to 2002, where he served as a graduate assistant.
The Burrow family ties to Nebraska continued into the next generation. Joe’s older brothers, Jamie and Dan Burrow, also played for the Cornhuskers. Jamie was a linebacker, and Dan a safety.
Jamie was on the Nebraska team that reached the 2002 Rose Bowl, where they fell 37-14 to the Miami Hurricanes.
Coming out of high school, Joe Burrow was offered a reported 17 scholarships. This included offers from Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Joe hoped to follow the footsteps of his father and brothers by playing for Nebraska. Interestingly, the school passed on Burrow when he looked to transfer there in 2018. With the childhood dream over, Burrow opted to transfer to LSU, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Side note: Though they didn’t play at Nebraska, Burrow’s grandmother Dot Ford, grandfather James Burrow and uncle John Burrow were also star athletes. Dot scored 82 points in a Mississippi high school basketball game. James played basketball at Mississippi State, and John was a safety at Ole Miss.
Dwayne Haskins' Backup
Burrow redshirted in the 2015 season for the Ohio State Buckeyes, and he saw limited time as the backup QB in 2016 and 2017. Finally, 2018 was his chance to get the hands on the starting duties.
However, Burrow lost the quarterback battle to future fellow first-round pick Dwayne Haskins. Funny enough, during a 2020 interview with FOX Sports, Haskins even admitted that he and Burrow couldn’t stand one another
Not wanting to serve as a backup, Burrow wisely decided to transfer over to LSU for the 2018 season.
Though he finished his college career at LSU, Burrow actually wound up graduating with a degree in consumer and family financial services from Ohio State. Burrow obtained his master’s in Liberal Arts at LSU.
Not that Ohio State regretted taking Haskins or anything. In 14 games, he completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns against only eight picks.
After leading the Buckeyes to a 2019 Rose Bowl victory, Haskins was drafted 15th overall by Washington in 2019.
However, Haskins’ NFL career was tragically cut short when he was killed after being struck by a vehicle while trying to cross the interstate in Florida back on April 9, 2022.
Vikings, Saints & Browns Fan
Burrow spent much of his youth in the state of Ohio; he graduated from Athens High School in The Plains. However, he didn’t actually grow up rooting for the Ohio-based team that he now stars for.
Burrow lived in North Dakota when he was in Grades 1 and 2, which prompted him to cheer for the Vikings. His admiration of Drew Brees and Reggie Bush later prompted Burrow to become a Saints fan, however.
Ahead of the 2020 National Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Burrow had the fortunes of meeting Brees at the Saints’ practice facility. On social media, the Tigers posted an incredible moment where Burrow told Brees that he’s responsible for his Saints fandom.
A month earlier, Burrow revealed that he grew up cheering for the Saints despite being raised in Ohio. Burrow had yet to meet Brees at the time, but the dream obviously wound up coming true. And how fitting was it that he led the Tigers to a national title inside the Saints’ home stadium?
Ahead of the Browns-Bengals Week 7, 2020 game, Jim Burrow posted a cool throwback photo from nine years earlier.
Okay, so Burrow was kinda/sorta a bandwagon fan. Hey, cheering for the Vikings and Browns has never been easy, but at least he got to enjoy the Saints’ Super Bowl 44 championship season.
And now, Burrow gets to face one of his former favorite teams twice a season…against another fellow former first overall pick in Baker Mayfield. Life is a full circle, folks!
The Joe Burrow Sandwich
After the Bengals drafted Burrow with the first overall pick in 2020, a local restaurant decided to capitalize on all of the Burrow Mania that was sweeping the city. Izzy’s, renowned for its Deli Sandwiches, introduced the “The Bengal King” sandwich — available for a limited time — as a tribute to Burrow.
“The Bengal King” consisted of: Corned beef, swiss cheeses, sauerkraut, 1000 Island dressing, potato pancake and pickles on grilled marble rye. The Sandwich sold for the price of $11.99.
John Geisen, the president of Izzy’s, had this to say regarding the introduction of the Joe Burrow sandwich, per WKRC in Cincinnati:
“Joe finished his collegiate career as a Bayou Bengal and is ready to start his professional career as a Cincinnati Bengal. Izzy’s and the City of Cincinnati are excited to welcome Joe and what better way to do so than by having one of Cincinnati’s longest standing restaurants giving him his own sandwich.”
Many non-guitarists at least know how to play “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. It’s just one of those things. And if you’re a of these “one-song guitarist,” you’re not alone. The Bengals quarterback is also part of this club.
But Burrow’s one song, surprisingly, isn’t “Smoke on the Water.” Rather, Burrow has revealed that the only song he knows how to play is the 1989 hit, “Free Fallin’” by the late Tom Petty.
As it turns out, this is the one song Burrow learned how to play on the guitar. He unfortunately suffered a broken arm after starting his guitar lessons, and never wound up resuming them.
Perhaps once his football career is over, he’ll have a lot more time to learn a few more songs.
Burrow is in a relationship with Olivia Holzmacher. Reports state that they have been together since 2017, while he was still at Ohio State. Holzmacher also attended Ohio State, where she studied data and analytics.
Holzmacher also appeared as a cardboard cutout for the Bengals during their Week 1, 2020 home game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Bengals didn’t have any fans in attendance for the game, so they used the cutouts to help fill the seats at Paul Brown Stadium.
Not A Fan Of “Tiger King” Or The LSU Mascot
The LSU football team has had a real tiger mascot named “Mike” since 1936. The current “Mike the Tiger” — named Mike VII — has been the on-campus mascot since August 2017.
This may be a popular attraction for the thousands of students and many tourists in Baton Rouge, but Burrow isn’t really having it.
During a 2020 appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast, the subject of Netflix’s “Tiger King” documentary series was brought up. Burrow revealed that he’s quote “anti-animal in cage” and probably wouldn’t watch the series. He also said “Mike the Tiger is not my favorite part of campus.”
Many professional athletes have their signature pre-game rituals. For Tom Brady, it’s running out and screaming “LET’S GO.” For LeBron James, it’s the chalk toss. For Burrow, well, there’s quite a few.
During a 2018 meeting with the media, Burrow revealed his many pregame rituals. His two main ones? Eating a caramel apple sucker while riding the team bus and wearing one of his socks inside out.
Burrow revealed that he likes listening to Kid Cudi and John Mayor at the stadium as well. And when he’s at the hotel? Burrow likes to listen to Lil Uzi Vert and Meek Mill to amp himself up.
Before the 2020 national championship, Burrow revealed that he likes to take a 15-minute nap ahead of game time. Even if he doesn’t always fall asleep, it’s Burrow’s way of calming his nerves and emotions beforehand.
Projected Day 3 Pick
As hard as it is to believe now, Burrow was far from a highly-touted prospect throughout most of his college career. It wasn’t until his historic 2019 season where the football world realized that a future NFL star was emerging.
Before the start of the 2019 season, Pro Football Focus ranked the top 130 FBS quarterbacks. Burrow was only ranked 17th on the list. Nnot surprising, considering his 2018 stat line at the time: A 57.8 completion percentage for 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns against five picks.
In his way-too-early 2020 mock draft, published in May 2019, ESPN’s Todd McShay didn’t even have Burrow going in the first round. And in Mel Kiper’s August 2019 preseason big board, Burrow wasn’t even listed as one of his top-five quarterbacks.
Everyone knew that Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert — who went fifth and sixth overall to the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively — would go early. But looking back, it’s hard to believe that the likes of Nate Stanley, Steven Montez, Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm were widely projected to go ahead of Burrow.
If you go through NFL mock drafts in the fall of 2019, you’ll have a hard time finding even one that projected Burrow to go in the first round.
Everything changed in just one season, however. Burrow pieced together one of the greatest individual seasons ever, completing 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards and a ridiculous 60 touchdowns against only five picks, en route to Heisman Trophy honors and a national championship.
Burrow became just the second LSU player to win the Heisman. Billy Cannon was the first to earn the honors back in 1959.
Burrow went from being a projected mid-or-late round selection, to being the obvious No. 1 pick or the 2020 draft. You rarely ever see a player come out of nowhere like that to claim the top spot in the draft, but that’s just what Burrow did.
Though many pegged Burrow’s former Ohio State teammate, defensive end Chase Young, as the top pick, it was pretty clear that the QB-needy Bengals would take Joe first overall.
And it seems safe to say that it was the right choice – not that anyone could have projected it one year earlier…
The Heisman Trophy Speech
As previously noted, Burrow won the 2019 Heisman Trophy following a jaw-dropping final season at LSU. Burrow’s Heisman Trophy speech wasn’t just full of thank yous and emotional quotes, however. It was actually a greatly impactful speech.
While speaking into the microphone, Burrow brought awareness towards poverty in Athens, Ohio. Burrow said the following, which changed everything for the better:
“Coming from southeast Ohio it’s a very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average. There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot and I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here, too.”
Will Drabold, who attended Athens High and Ohio State, was greatly inspired by Burrow’s speech. He organized a fundraiser for the Athens County Food Pantry on Facebook.
The fundraiser spread rapidly, and over $600,000 in donations were reached. This was obviously extraordinary support for the Panty, which had a reported budget of $80,000.
Burrow was given a platform and an opportunity. And rather than make all about himself, he made it about the city that he grew up in. And he was able to provide valuable support to the people of Athens, Ohio. The Bengals truly have themselves a gem of a person, both on and off the field.
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