Joe Burrow’s senior season is unmatched in college football history, and his bravado and swagger may be unmatched as well.
He’s shattered records and opposing defenses all season long.
He waved goodbye to Texas, proclaimed to the whole Vanderbilt sideline his plan to drop 500 yards on its defense and on the biggest stage of all, in bowels of the Superdome following LSU’s 42-25 win over Clemson in the National Championship, Burrow lit a victory cigar.
The Heisman Trophy winner accounted for over 500 yards of offense and six touchdowns, and after throwing his final of 60 touchdown passes, a NCAA record for a single season, Burrow pointed to his ring finger.
And as the LSU faithful celebrated an assured victory, serenading the Superdome crowd with a chant that was once described as “a heartwarming chant about how that visitor ought to perform a carnal act upon the cherished tiger mascot” by Chuck Culpepper, the camera turned to Burrow, who joined in on the notorious cheer.
“There’s the Joe you guys see that talks to [the media] and then there’s a Joe that steps across the white lines, and those are two different people,” Burrow said in an interview before the Heisman ceremony. “My parents always say we’ve never seen that side of you off the field, and I was like, ‘yeah you’ve never been on the field with me before.’
“So there’s kind of two different Joes.”
LSU junior safety JaCoby Stevens has seen that certain side of Burrow between the white lines up close and personal. Stevens said people would think they hated each other during fall camp.
“We went back and forth, we talked trash, shoot, we even fought once,” Stevens said.” But when the season started, we came together and it was us against the world. That’s one thing, I respect the heck out of Joe.
“Joe’s a competitor, he’s going to compete whenever and I know he ran out of the eligibility tonight, but I’ll always be willing to play for that guy. I always know he’s going to put everything on the line and he’s always going to go 110 percent, and that’s why I can follow Joe anywhere.”
Despite the admiration, Stevens didn’t shy away when asked who won the fight.
“Me, of course. He didn’t win it. He’s a quarterback, he can’t win in a fight against me.”
It wasn’t the first time things became chippy between Burrow and LSU’s defense either. Senior defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko described Burrow as quiet but a trouble-maker on the field.
“Joe knows we can’t touch him, and sometimes he’ll egg things on a bit,” Fehoko said. “That fight fall camp where somebody got in Joe’s face, and you never touch the quarterback – nobody touches quarterbacks here. It was kind of a head-butt helmet to helmet.
“The offense, you just saw a whole bunch of white jerseys, they just swarmed the field. Then we got on the field, and we’re looking around and Joe is on the side getting ready to run team. So we get into team, and he just starts to slice us. They are going fast, and then after practice all the offensive guys are walking off the field with a chip on their shoulders.”
While LSU’s defense may have been Burrow’s first victim this season, they were far from the last. Burrow threw for over 400 yards four times and three or more touchdowns in 13 of 15 games.
He finished with 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns to six interceptions while completing over 76% of his passes. He added 368 yards and five touchdowns rushing as well.
Teams did all they could to rattle Burrow, and all it did was increase his performance.
“He’s a competitor man,” said senior defensive end Rashard Lawrence. “I look at some of things he’s had to face, as far as the UCF hit, guys hitting him late out of bounds, he bounces right back up. It’s like poking a bear, man. With all the weapons he has with Clyde, Ja’Marr, Justin, I don’t think you should try to do that with him because he’s proven time and time again it just motivates him.”
Jimmy Burrow said as a dad he always wants to see his son show his opponents respect, but adds that he doesn’t mind seeing the emotion and intensity from Joe on the field.
“It’s really different for him on the football field as opposed to his normal personality off the field, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Jimmy retired from coaching to watch Joe play his senior season at LSU, calling it the best decision of his life. He’s watched his youngest son's meteoric rise from an average quarterback in the Southeastern Conference to a college football legend and likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
The elder Burrow also watched as Joe struggled to fight back tears during his Heisman acceptance speech. The brash and confident quarterback displayed vulnerability, which even made LSU coach Ed Orgeron emotional.
No longer was Joe Burrow the trash-talking quarterback who played with a chip on his shoulder fueled by a litany of doubters. He was normal. He was the same Joe Burrow who talked about space at SEC Media Days or went over his favorite list of Thanksgiving foods during interviews last fall.
It was the same Burrow who wore a custom-made “Burreaux” jersey during LSU’s senior night ceremony before a 50-7 win over Texas A&M as a tribute to the fans who supported him for two years. Following the game, Burrow made sure to mention the state of Louisiana and how much it meant to him.
It was just another part of one side of Joe Burrow that created an unbridled connection between him and Louisiana.
“[Louisiana has] seen too, over his two years, how much respect he does have for LSU tradition and LSU fans, and so I don’t think it was a surprise,” Jimmy Burrow said. “I think it just made his mom and I so proud of him because he has won an entire state.”