'He just had the 'it' factor': Analyst remembers Bengals QB Joe Burrow asking for advice before garnering attention in high school

NFL star asked for college recruiting advice in 2013
Posted at 7:54 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 19:57:50-05

CENTERVILLE, Ohio — Dave Berk's pinned tweet about the start of Joe Burrow's college football recruiting journey has 5,165 retweets and nearly 33,000 likes since Dec. 14, 2019 — the night Burrow won the Heisman Trophy.

"People find it all the time," said Berk, a longtime Ohio high school football analyst. "Someone called me the other day and said, 'Hey I saw your tweet on ESPN.'"

Berk's tweet more than two years ago is often cited by national media outlets and is still a reminder of Burrow's journey from Athens High School to quarterback of the Super Bowl-bound Cincinnati Bengals.

Every high school football player with dreams of playing in college and beyond has to start somewhere. Burrow was no different.

"I was wondering if there were any specific camps I should go to to help get my name out there because I'm not really getting any attention," the Athens junior quarterback wrote Berk in a direct message Dec. 18, 2013.

A few weeks earlier, Burrow lost a playoff game to Marion-Franklin during a cold night in Southeast Ohio.

Berk, a Centerville resident, and Columbus-based photographer Scott Reed made the drive to watch Burrow play quarterback and line up as a defensive back in press coverage.

"As soon as he put the helmet on and he strapped it up, he was making plays," Reed said. "We were just looking at each other going, 'Wow, how did he make that pass?' "It was phenomenal what he was doing."

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow led Athens High School to the 2014 Division III state championship game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

Before that playoff game, Berk heard critics who claimed Burrow was putting up significant offensive stats against weak competition in an area of the state that often gets overlooked by some college football programs.

Berk and Reed didn't accept the negativity. They were impressed with Burrow's ability to stretch the pocket, throw across his body and simply make plays.

"A lot of the things that you don't see in young quarterbacks he could do, and a lot of things people talk about now I saw that night," Berk said. "He just had the 'it' factor is the best way to explain it."

Berk is convinced Burrow's work ethic had a significant impact in high school and throughout his college career, from Ohio State University to Louisiana State University.

So it was no surprise to hear Burrow this week discussing his advice to young athletes as he prepares for the Super Bowl.

"Don't go have a workout and post it on Instagram the next day and then go sit on your butt for four days and everyone thinks you're working hard but you're really not," Burrow told reporters. "Work in silence. Don't show everybody what you're doing."

That mentality as the son of former Ohio University assistant coach Jimmy Burrow was evident to Berk and to college recruiters. The patience and persistence paid off.

"When he sent me the original message my response to him was basically, 'Hey you just need to do what you're doing,'" Berk said. "And there is going to be opportunities for him in places like the Elite 11, the Nike combines and camps but the most important thing was the college camps."

Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow warms up during practice in Los Angeles as the Bengals prepare to play the Rams in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Less than a month after Burrow's direct message, he told Berk he received his first scholarship offer from Western Michigan in January 2014. Central Michigan, Fresno State, University of Cincinnati and West Virginia soon followed. Big Ten and Southeastern Conference programs were among those not far behind with scholarship offers, too.

Later that year, Burrow led Athens to the Division III state final as a senior at Ohio Stadium and eventually won Ohio Mr. Football before signing with Ohio State.

"I always felt Joe's talent was a different talent," Berk said. "And it's not just pure athleticism where you can throw the football and how far you can throw it, what velocity and all that. It's the understanding."

"People are seeing that now," Berk said. "What he's showing people now, he was showing in high school early glimpses of it."

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