Heisman Trophy Award Show 2019

LSU's Joe Burrow is announced as this year's Heisman Trophy winner during the Heisman Trophy Award Show on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 in New York, NY. Todd Van Emst/Heisman Trust

Cool, calm, and collected. That has been Joe Burrow throughout his whole collegiate career. The only time you will catch Burrow filled with emotions is on the field.  

“There’s the Joe you guys see that talks to you and then there’s a Joe that steps across the white lines, and those are two different people,” he said in an interview prior to the Heisman Ceremony.  

So there was no expectation of emotion in the PlayStation Theater on a Saturday night in New York City when the Heisman Trust presented Burrow its 85th Heisman Award. But on the night that Burrow’s name was etched into the brotherhood of the greatest collegiate football players, he still found to be serene, for a moment. 

The 2019 Heisman Trophy Winner accepted his award with the same grin that the college football world has come to know and love. The world then got to see a side of Burrow that not many have seen before off the field, an emotional Joe Burrow. 

“That's the first time in 23 years that I have cried.” Burrow said following the ceremony. 

So where did all this emotion come? If you know his story, you could tell it started way back in his hometown of Athens, Ohio.

While Burrow broke all the passing records at Athens High School, others in the poverty-stricken town went hungry. Not many people make it out of Athens, yet there was Burrow, a shinning example representing success from a small-town on the edge of Appalachia, a notoriously poor part of the country.   

"Coming from southeast Ohio, it's a very, very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two-times the national average. There are so many people there who don't have a lot.

"I'm up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County, who go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too."

The donations, now upward of $400,000, have gone to the Athens County Food Pantry. 

But despite all Burrow's accolades as a quarterback at Athens High School, he was not recruited by his father and brothers' alma mater, Nebraska. Burrow spent his next three years at Ohio State without playing, adding to the frustration before finally getting a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job. But a broken hand in spring practice led to him finishing behind Dwayne Haskins as the starter.

This led Burrow to what became a monumental decision in college football, transferring to LSU. 

Burrow started his legendary speech thanking his offensive line, name by name. He mentioned them all, a moment of gratitude that did not go unnoticed. However, he struggled to start speaking before stepping away from the podium, holding his face in his hands, and spending several moments to compose himself.

“I wish I could have been up there an hour and had a list of names I could rattle off instead of celebrating myself,” Burrow said. 

Overtaken with emotions several times, Burrow then took his thank you tour to his head coach Ed Orgeron. 

Once while unable to talk due to emotions, the crowd cheered and chanted for Burrow, in hopes of calming him down and celebrating again, his accomplishments.

“You have no idea what you mean to my family. I didn't play for three years, and you took a chance on me. I am forever grateful for you,“ he said to Orgeron who sat with eyes filled with moisture. 

Not short on thank yous, the graduate transfer also mentioned how special it was to share this season and this moment with his father, who recently retired from being the defensive coordinator at Ohio University after 14 years. This move was designed to allow Jimmy Burrow to watch his son’s last season in the purple and gold. 

Lastly, Burrow thanked Louisiana and LSU, for taking him in and making him one of their own. 

When asked about his speech, Burrow mentioned that he had written a few things down as reference points. Just as the world has seen him play with his heart, Burrow spoke with his heart. 

Continuing to make history, Burrow now holds the largest margin of victory in the history of the Heisman voting by getting 1,846 points. 

Burrow now joins the late Dr. Billy Cannon in being the only LSU Tigers to have received this prestigious award. Despite winning it 60 years apart, Burrow and Cannon's family now share an unparalleled bond that will last a lifetime, for Burrow and for many, many Tiger fans. 

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