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SUPER BOWL LVI

How long has Joe Burrow been in the NFL?

With the poise of a veteran, and wearing his college successes like a badge, it is easy to forget just how little NFL experience Joe Burrow has

Update:
Feb 11, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) speaks during media availabilty for Super Bowl LVI at Drake Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. VasquezUSA TODAY Sports

Just before the world heard of coronavirus, the NCAA Division-I football world was blown apart by a young quarterback at LSU. Joe Burrow was quiet and unassuming, a backup quarterback at Ohio State. He came to Baton Rouge looking for an opportunity and Ed Orgeron took a chance on him. What he did was the stuff of legend, he took a program that had always been solid, but decidedly shaken of late, and brought them a National Championship by going undefeated. He was rewarded with the Heisman Trophy, the perfect end to a perfect season.

One thing that SEC fans, and particularly LSU fans, are is loyal. To a fault. The Tigers are a big fish in a small state, and they definitely swim with sharks. This brings a combination of small-town devotion and swagger together, often colliding. If you are not in, you may not get in. But once you are in, you are in for life. Joe Burrow is the outsider who not only got in, he kicked the doors down. And he did it in such a quiet, respectful way that even those who don’t like LSU became fans of his.

Louisiana follows and supports “our” boys wherever they are. You will find the same sentiment expressed for Leonard Fournette, Andrew Whitworth, Tyrann Mathieu, and all former players from any college in the state. But LSU is the flagship, and the quarterback is the top spot, and the moment Joe Burrow was drafted by the Bengals, there was an unspoken, but almost universal, shift in the state’s NFL loyalties. We still support the Saints, but we all have a soft spot for Cincinnati. And that is all because of Joe Burrow.

The road travelled

As a product of the SEC football region, I find it hard to believe that there are football fans who don’t follow the college game. Begrudgingly, I accept that this is sometimes the case, and for those people it must seem as if Joe Burrow materialized out of nowhere. First pick of the draft, blown out knee, rookie season lost, Joe must seem like an overnight sensation to anyone unfamiliar with the road that he has travelled to get to Super Bowl LVI.

In only his second year in the NFL, Burrow has accomplished some astounding feats. The majority of his wins have been come-from-behind wins, the only exceptions are the games when he hangs 500 yards on the defense and blows them out of the water. And all of this with only half of his first season under his belt.

A second-year rookie

The talk around the media in 2020 was all about how big a step up the NFL is from college, how even the top quarterbacks need time to settle in to the faster game, the bigger defensive linemen, the more complicated strategies. And Joe is no exception, the Bengals were 2-6-1 when his season ended. They were not what they are this season at that time, but for your quarterback to get so little settling in, everyone expected that this season would be, effectively, his rookie year.

His return to the NFL was not one of a new second year man easing his way back from injury. Joe came roaring back and brought the poise and dedication of a veteran with him. His reading of defenses has jumped lightyears ahead of where it was last season. His calm demeanor in the face of a fierce pass rush reveals his character; he will not be cowed by anyone. He trusts his receivers and they have earned every ounce of that trust. And more than that, he trusts his own instincts. That is something you can't teach. For such a young quarterback to have those qualities, it is a very rare thing indeed.

None of this is news to the LSU faithful, we have an affinity with Cincinnati in the “all hope, zero expectation” game. But take it from us, Cincinnati: our past experience when Joe is in the game tells us that hope is in this case backed by action. He can dig you out of a hole, no matter how deep. What he has done in the NFL mirrors what he did in Baton Rouge. This is all vintage Burrow. So have a bit of expectation. After all, a Bengal is just a kind of Tiger.

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