Ohio State Backup to Heisman Winner: The Miraculous Story of Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow taking on Oklahoma in the playoffs

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, you’ve likely heard of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who has taken the world by storm with his incredible performance this college football season. He has won multiple awards and led his team to the National Championship this season, where they will battle Clemson. But how did he get here?

Joe Burrow was born on December 10th, 1996, and grew up in the town of Athens, Ohio. His parents’ names are Jim and Robin Burrow, and he is the youngest child. Joe has two older brothers, Jamie and Dan, who would later play football at Nebraska, and he grew up with a family that was very involved in athletics. In fact, his grandmother, Dot Burrow, once scored 82 points in a high school basketball game.

Also, his father played football in the NCAA, NFL, CFL, and later coached for many years. It was not until this year that Burrow’s father retired from coaching so that he could go to every LSU football game. It was a big decision for Jimmy, but ultimately worth it.

Joe attended Athens High School. At Athens, he played 3 years of varsity football as well as point guard on the basketball team. He threw for about 11,400 yards across 3 years and won multiple awards, according to 247 Sports.

In his senior year, he led his team all the way to the Ohio division III state championship. Unfortunately, his team fell to Central Catholic by a score of 56-52. In that game, Joe threw for 452 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 1 interception, which still wasn’t enough to get the win.

Because of his dazzling performance, he was given the Ohio Mr. Football award. Although he performed well and was a 4-star recuit, most of the top Division 1 schools did not give him an offer.

Schools such as Minnesota, East Carolina, Boston College, West Virginia, and other smaller Division 1 schools gave Burrow an offer. He initially wanted to go to Nebraska, but they didn’t think he would be successful, so they didn’t recuit him. So he committed to his hometown school, Ohio State.

In his first year at Ohio State, he played 5 games as the backup to J.T. Barrett. But the following year, he suffered an injury in fall camp which led to Dwayne Haskins taking the backup role. After 2 disappointing seasons, Burrow finally had a chance to win the starting job in the spring of 2018. Throughout the spring, Ohio State’s QB situation seemed quite blurry.

Tate Martell, Dwayne Haskins, and Burrow were all competing for the starting quarterback job. After a tough competition, it was made clear to him that he would not be starting for the Buckeyes. So, he made the tough decision to transfer and play his final 2 seasons elsewhere. In nine career appearances with the Buckeyes, he completed 29 of 39 passes for 287 yards and 2 total touchdowns.

After much thought, Burrow made his decision to enroll at LSU, choosing the Tigers over schools such as Cincinnati. Although this seemed very good for LSU, it did not look like a good match for success. LSU hadn’t had a good quarterback in years and their emphasis was on running the ball and playing great defense. Even though LSU didn’t have a good QB, he wasn’t exactly handed the starting job.

In fact, Ed Orgeron said that Myles Brennan almost won the job and if Burrow looked shaky, Myles would come in. Through the first 6 games, Joe struggled. He only threw for 6 touchdowns to go along with 2 interceptions. He also had a completion percentage of 54.15% over 6 games, but his team still managed to have a record of 5-1 with wins over Miami and Auburn.

The next 5 games were also tough, as he threw for 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Through all of this, they still managed to beat Georgia. But unfortunately, they got embarrassed at home against Alabama, losing by a score of 29-0. In the last game of the season, LSU took on number 22 ranked Texas A&M. This game was amazing and lasted 7 overtimes, but unfortunately, LSU fell 74-72 and finished the regular season with a respectable 9-3 record.

Burrow had his best game of the season, passing and running for 3 touchdowns apiece. After a hard-fought season, LSU was set to take on the undefeated UCF Knights in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. Right off the bat, UCF got off to a great start. They took a 14-3 lead after a 93 yard interception return and a huge hit on the LSU quarterback. It looked like the Knights had all the control and would win the game with ease.

But that’s when Joe Burrow became Joe Burreaux. He led his team to score 17 straight points and they never looked back, winning the game by a score of 40-32 and finishing the year with a record of 10-3. Burrow had another solid outing, throwing for 394 yards and 4 touchdowns. The next year seemingly looked good for both LSU and Joe.

The next season, LSU entered as the 6th ranked team in the nation. There was no question that Joe Burrow was QB1, but there were questions surrounding how good he would be. The season before, he showed two sides of himself: one good, and one not to write home about. However, some LSU players claimed before the season that the team changed their offense to the spread, and that everyone would see a new LSU team this year.

Also, Ed Orgeron hired passing coordinator Joe Brady from the Saints to help Steve Ensiminger run the offense. Obviously, not many people read into this because LSU had been trying to brand a new offense for years and we have never seen it. In the first game, Burrow and the rest of his team turned some heads. The LSU quarterback had less incompletions than passing touchdowns, as LSU beat Georgia Southern 55-3.

The crazy part was he didn’t even play for most of the 2nd half. Although it was a great performance, many still questioned LSU’s offense because their opponent was Georgia Southern. However, the next week, they had an opportunity to really show that they were not fraudulent against 9th-ranked Texas. In that game, LSU put up 45 points, and the defense came up clutch multiple times, which helped secure a 7 point win.

Burrow continued his hot streak in that game with 4 touchdowns and 471 passing yards. After that week, LSU had 3 easy wins against Northwestern State, Vanderbilt, and Utah State. In those games, he had a combined 13 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 2 rushing touchdowns. In the next two games, Burrow led his team to 2 wins against a ranked Florida team, and a solid Mississippi State team.

He threw for 3 more touchdowns in the Florida game to go along with 4 in the Mississippi State game. The next 2 games really proved how dangerous LSU had become. In the 1st game, LSU took on Auburn, who had a really solid defense but struggled on offense early in the season, and it showed. Auburn struggled throughout the game, only reaching 20 points. Although Auburn’s defense held strong, LSU outlasted them by 3 points.

Burrow struggled along with the LSU offense, but he still had 2 total touchdowns on the day. After 8 straight wins, LSU entered their biggest game of the year at Alabama, who had won 8 straight appearances against LSU and had not been challenged in years. The good news for LSU was that Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was not 100 percent.

In the first half, LSU took control late, scoring 2 touchdowns in the last 26 seconds, which gave them a 20 point lead at half. But, in the second half, Tua caught fire. The Crimson Tide got within 6 with 14 minutes left in the fourth, but struggled to stop Burrow. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 2 4th quarter touchdowns and LSU won 46-41.

The boy from Athens had yet another unbelievable game, throwing for 3 touchdowns and 393 yards. The next 3 games were a walk in the park for both Burrow and LSU, which helped them earn a spot in the SEC Championship. In the SEC championship, LSU easily defeated 4th-ranked Georgia by 27 points and Burrow finished with 4 touchdowns.

Due to his performance this year, Burrow finished the year with multiple awards, including the Heisman Trophy. He also won the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Associated Press College Football Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Davey O’Brien Award, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, All-SEC 1st-Team, and Unanimous 1st-Team All-American.

He also set multiple SEC records at LSU, including a bowl game record in his latest game against Oklahoma in the playoffs. Burrow threw for 8 touchdowns, the most ever in a college football bowl game. This season truly has been magical for Joe Burrow and he can make even more history when he takes on Clemson in the National Championship game.

I asked Avery Atkins, a kicker at LSU, about Joe Burrow and his work ethic. His response was this,” Joe is a great guy, hard working, always the first one to meetings and practice and the last one to leave”. Joe’s story is so inspiring because it shows that anything can happen. He went from a backup at Ohio State to the future number 1 pick. There is no doubt in my mind that he will play at the next level, and I for one am very excited to see him play in the NFL.