The Heisman Trophy winner is now the No. 1 overall pick in the National Football League Draft.
The Cincinnati Bengals made it official on Thursday, taking Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The 2015 Athens High School graduate is coming back to his home state.
The draft, originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held his portion of the draft in his basement, with the players watching from their homes.
Burrow sat between his parents on the couch, Robin on his right and Jimmy on his left, as the family was shown in their house in The Plains in front of a national audience. Burrow sported a ‘740’ shirt to represent Athens County’s area code.
At 8:25 p.m., the Bengals’ pick was in, and the camera cut to Goodell.
He announced the words that Bengals’ fans have been waiting months to hear, that with the first pick in the draft, Cincinnati had selected Joe Burrow.
Burrow was shown on TV with a Bengals’ hat in hand, then later on the phone with presumably a member of the team’s front office.
Burrow then put on the Bengals’ hat and received hugs from his parents, the life-changing event taking place right in their living room.
Burrow appeared on ABC/ESPN with Suzy Kolber, who asked him what he would have said a year ago if someone told him he would be the No. 1 pick.
“I would have told you you were crazy,” Burrow answered. “I knew I was going to have a really good season because I knew we had really good players coming back. I had great coaches. We were going to work really, really hard to do it, but to jump up to No. 1 overall is crazy to me. But it’s a dream come true.”
Burrow then took to Twitter, retweeting a tweet from the Bengals’ official account that simply said, “Enough talk. Time to get to work.”
The Bengals and Burrow have seemingly been destined for each other ever since the conclusion of the 2019 football season.
It was one of the greatest stretches of football in NCAA history for Burrow, 60 touchdown passes to go with a Heisman Trophy and 15-0 National Championship season for LSU.
The Bengals were 2-14 last year, and clinched the top pick after a Week 16 overtime loss at Miami back in December.
Thursday’s selection caps off a dizzying last few months for Burrow, as he joined Cam Newton as the only other players to win a Heisman, National Title and then become the No. 1 draft pick within a calendar year.
Burrow is the pride of Athens and The Plains. He starred with the Bulldogs during the 2012-2014 seasons, accounting for 185 touchdowns. He led Athens to a 37-4 record in those seasons, including the only eight playoffs wins in program history.
Burrow won the Associated Press Mr. Football award — still the only player from the Southeast District to win it — after his senior year. The Bulldogs advanced to the Division III state championship game, within five points of a state title. Athens’ 861 points scored that season is still an Ohio High School Athletic Association record.
Burrow signed to play at Ohio State, and played with the Buckeyes for three seasons before taking a graduate transfer option after the 2018 spring game.
LSU scored 726 points during the ‘19 season in rolling up 15 victories. He was the Tigers’ first Heisman Trophy winners since Billy Cannon in 1959.
The season allowed Burrow to rise from a late-round pick going into 2019, to the first player chosen.
“I wasn’t very good my junior year. It’s pretty simple,” Burrow said on the ABC broadcast. “I worked really hard to get better. All my guys worked really hard to get better and we just killed as a team this year to do exactly what we did. I just wasn’t as good as I was my senior year, but I worked really hard to improve.”
The next step of Burrow’s football journey will be at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, where he will attempt to turn around the Bengals’ franchise.
Cincinnati hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015, but does boast a history that saw Kenny Anderson (1981) and Boomer Esiason (1988) win an MVP award while also guiding the franchise to the Super Bowl.
Burrow is the fourth No. 1 pick in Bengals’ history. Cincinnati selected Dan Wilkinson No. 1 in 1994, Ki-Jana Carter in 1995 and Carson Palmer in 2003. Palmer led the Bengals to AFC North titles in 2005 and 2009.
Palmer and Andy Dalton have, aside from missed time due to injuries, been the Bengals’ main two quarterbacks since 2004.
Dalton, who was drafted in 2011, is still under contract and led the team to playoff appearances in five straight seasons, including division titles in 2013 and 2015.
Burrow will team up with second-year Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, a former Nebraska quarterback in 2005 and 2006.
Wiseman is the sports editor of the Athens Messenger.