Joe Burrow's Looking to the Future, and It's a Bright One

by Cody Worsham | Digital Media Reporter
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Joe Burrow's Looking to the Future, and It's a Bright One

Like the record-setting offense he engineered in 2019, Joe Burrow doesn’t go backward.

Shortly after the Cincinnati Bengals made Burrow the Tigers’ third-ever No.1 overall selection, Burrow joined a media call and was asked when – if he hasn’t already – he will reflect on his Heisman-winning, history-making final season at LSU. 

“Hopefully in 20 years, after I retire,” Burrow said. “I haven’t thought about it in months.”

The future is his focus, and man, is it bright. Burrow returns to his home state to take over under center for a franchise without a playoff win since 1990, four years before he was born. But the cupboard isn’t bare: according to Elias Sports Bureau, Burrow will be the first rookie quarterback taken in the top five picks to play with two multiple 1,000 yard receivers (A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd) and a multiple 1,000 yard rusher (Joe Mixon). 

That offensive talent, combined with Burrow’s talent and intangibles, has his new city excited, and Burrow – whose hometown of Athens, Ohio, is just 150 miles away – can feel it. 

“I have,” he said, when asked if he could sense the excitement in Cincinnati. “And I’m very excited to reciprocate that to the fans and to the city. I think it’s going to be a great relationship. And I think we’re going to win a lot of football games, and that’s going to make it a lot better.”

Burrow has spent the last few weeks of social distancing in Athens, throwing three times a week with his former high school teammates, Adam and Ryan Luehrman, while lifting regularly and trimming down. He plans to hire a chef with his new paycheck – Spotrac projects a $36 million contract and a $23.8 million signing bonus – as well as continuing his charitable efforts toward his hometown. 

He also plans to maintain the same work ethic that vaulted him from a sixth round draft grade before the 2019 season to the first man off the board in 2020.

“For me, it doesn’t matter where you get picked,” Burrow said. “I could have been the 189th pick, I could be number one. I’m going to work the exact same and try to be the best quarterback I can be for this city.”

Burrow watched the draft from home with his parents, and a parade of cars drove by honking as the Bengals made their selection. Athens is and always has been behind him. Now, Burrow’s goal is to unite his new city and his new franchise, which is coming off a 2-14 season and is desperate for a winner. 

A winner, Burrow most certainly is.

“I’ve always been really, really good at bringing everybody together to form a common goal,” he says. “I think my work ethic kind of permeates throughout the team. And I’m excited to get around all the guys and everybody within that building.”

Work ethic defines Burrow. It’s how he won the job at LSU after transferring from Ohio State, where he sat for three seasons without playing more than mop-up duty behind J.T. Barrett. It’s how he took LSU’s offense to new heights in 2019, claiming a national title for his team and the Heisman for himself. 

“Something that I’ve always been scared of is, that saying, ‘There’s always someone out there that’s getting up earlier and working harder,'” Burrow said. “I’ve always tried to be that other person, when people say that, I try to be the guy that they’re talking about.”

Burrow doesn’t just bring pinpoint accuracy, elite IQ, and the ability to improvise with his arms and legs to the Bengals. He also brings unparalleled confidence, and it transcends mere swagger. It’s a distinction his new head coach, Zac Taylor, made when talking about Burrow, and it’s a distinction Burrow – the most prepared player in the sport last season – made, too. 

“Swagger, it’s something, but there’s not really anything behind it,” he said. “I think confidence has preparation behind it. There’s a lot of false confidence out there that I think you could describe as swagger. 

“The reason that I am so confident is because I know the work that I put in, I know the preparation that I do before every single game and in the offseason. That’s why I’m so confident in myself, because if you put in the amount of work that I put in and you don’t succeed on the field, I think something’s wrong.”

That confidence goes back to the end of the 2018 season, when Burrow caught fire over LSU’s last four games and picked up Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP honors in the season finale. 

“As soon as we walked off the field, my junior year after the bowl game, I knew exactly what was gonna happen [in 2019],” Burrow said. “We didn’t focus on winning the national championship. We focused on dominating every single team that we played. And I think that was the key to our success.”

It’s a new level for Burrow, a new challenge, and a new city. But he’s still the same Joe. 

And he’s not looking back.