ATHENS, Ohio — Jimmy and Robin Burrow have known for a while that their son Joe — or Joey as they call him in his hometown of Athens — was a winner.
Growing up in southeastern Ohio, Joe Burrow's parents said they always thought their son would succeed in sports, but figured it would be in basketball. It was in 10th grade that Burrow's parents said he became his high school's quarterback and fell in love with the sport he now plays professionally.
"He always had athletic ability," said Jimmy Burrow, a retired football coach for Ohio University in Athens. "So that was fairly obvious when he started his first competitive sports — which initially it was soccer, and then little league baseball, and then then basketball and football, so it was pretty obvious that he was a good athlete."
Today I spoke with @JoeyB's parents. They said when Joe was growing up, they always thought he was going to be a basketball player! It wasn't until high school he decided to give up travel basketball/focus on football. Joe's Dad shared this adorable pic of a young JoeyB. @wcpo pic.twitter.com/eeAkqI9mI5— Taylor Nimmo (@tnimms) January 27, 2022
The Burrows said they still weren't sure he'd end up in the NFL when he first committed to Ohio State.
"We knew if you play at a Power Five school like that, you're going to have an opportunity normally to develop your skills and go to the next level," Jimmy said. "And once he transferred to LSU, that was one of the reasons, he thought they can win a national championship and he could play in the NFL."
At LSU, Burrow achieved his goals as he was awarded the Heisman Trophy while leading the Tigers to a national championship in 2019. Though Burrow's natural ability was obvious, his mom said he worked hard to become the player he is today.
"Gifted to me as a pretty strong word, because he's worked for it very hard," Robin said. "He's put in a lot of time and effort for a lot of things over the years."
Now, Burrow is living out his dream. The second-year QB has led the Bengals to their first playoff win in more than 30 years as well as the first postseason road win in franchise history. And now they are headed to the team's first Super Bowl since 1989.
"It's so weird just to turn on ESPN or the NFL channel or any news channel and nine times out of 10 at some point when you're watching it, they're going to say 'you have a clip of Joe on' or have a reference about Joe or even just mentioned him in passing is so crazy," Robin said.
Now that he is such a popular figure, what are some things fans don't know about Joe? His dad says he loves his mother's cooking (which he is treated to after home games) and he plays lots of video games and board games.
"A lot of people know that he still plays (video games) with his high school friends and some of his former teammates," Jimmy said. "I think he still plays with Nick Bosa and and maybe even Joey."
Robin said Joey has also gotten back into puzzles and has also picked up chess, keeping a chessboard in the Bengals locker room.
It's been a journey for Burrow to return from a leg injury he suffered in his first year with the Bengals, but his parents said he has always been able to recover from injuries quickly.
"This one certainly took a long time, a lot of hard work, but in his mind within a few days after the injury and in surgery, he was talking about being ready to go the first game," Jimmy said.
Jimmy said his son's recovery wasn't complete at the start of the season.
"I wouldn't say he was 100% until maybe after the bye week," Jim said.
Getting back on the field and helping his team get to playoffs is an accomplishment in itself, but Burrow's parents said they are proud of their son's work off the field as well. His Heisman speech that referenced Athens' food pantry helped contribute to more than $1 million in donations since.
"I mean, exponentially proud. You can't even put that into words," Robin said.
Burrow made a difference in Athens — and he has also made a difference in the public's perception of the Bengals, a team that has had a track-record of losing for years.
"He just wanted to win games and win championships, and on the day he got drafted by the Bengals, the only thing that he said is 'I want to win a Super Bowl,'" Jimmy said.
Joe use to like those shiny red chiefs helmets . Not anymore . Geaux Bengals . pic.twitter.com/dqijN5u9ST— Jimmy Burrow (@CoachBurrow) January 28, 2022
"He's always, I feel like, been very optimistic and positive. And held his own standards very high as far as his expectations for himself," Robin said.
"He doesn't like to lose he's not a very good loser," Jimmy added.
The Burrows were in Kansas City Sunday. Their prediction was a Bengals win, and it came true.
"We think they're gonna win," Jimmy said. "But we think they're going to win every game, so that's mom and dad here talking."