When Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw a touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Andrei Iosivas, all present, either live at Paycor Stadium or watching on TV, witnessed the quarterback run into the end zone, away from his teammates. It was unclear, at first, what he was doing.
But then we all saw him pick up the ball and hand it to Iosivas. It was his first NFL touchdown, and it was his birthday.
At this point in his career, no Bengals fan batted an eye. We’re used to it.
According to Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson, there are those who knew Burrow long before he was the Bengals signal caller. They weren’t surprised either.
“Joe loves his teammates,” Nathan White, Joe Burrow’s offensive coordinator in high school (now the head coach), said. “He knew not every guy got their name in the paper, but everybody on the team is invaluable. Our whole team was like that. We had guys score 20, 30, 40 touchdowns in their career. Joe’s running back had 100 himself.
“But when a guy who didn’t score much had a chance to make a play, it was a huge thing for our kids. Those guys celebrated like it was one of the guys scoring his 40th. It was an infectious thing. They wanted everybody to have success. You saw very simple things in high school.”
Burrow’s former high school tight end, Adam Luehrman, also spoke with Hobson. He said Burrow, hailing from Athens, Ohio, Burrow and the rest of his high school team learned to get along with everyone due to the nature of where they lived. Not only was it a small town, but it was near to a college with international students. Burrow could play with anyone, Luehrman said.
“He wouldn’t be afraid to throw it to anyone,” he said. “I’d have to be ready for the ball at all times. Even in practice. He may never throw it to you, but you still have to remember it’s in the back of his head. You could run that play 100 times, and there might be that one route or one play he’ll go to a guy once. And it may not be in a practice, but in a game.”
Want another example?
Hobson wrote of the jacket that Burrow wore to the AFC Championship game (the first one in early 2022 before they went to the Super Bowl). According to Scott Burson, who wrote the Book “From Bulldog to Bengals” on Burrow, it was designed by the little brother of another former teammate of his. The orders since have skyrocketed.
And the final example is another from this year.
It was when Bengals wide receiver Kwamie Lassiter II caught a pass from Burrow against the Cardinals in Arizona. The game was well in hand, the quarterback checked out of the run play to get the ball to Lassiter. It was his first NFL catch in his hometown, where his late father played for several years.
Burrow says it wasn’t charity, meaning Lassiter earned it. I agree Lassiter earned it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t made possible by Burrow.
“I think he just saw the (run) alert. Went by his rules for real,” Lassiter said. “No charity. That’s what I’m talking about. He asked me (later) if that was my first catch.”
Now the highest-paid player in NFL history, Burrow still joins his old high school teammates on Monday nights online for X-Box games. If he plays on Monday Night Football, it’s rescheduled for Tuesday nights. No matter how big of a superstar Burrow is, or becomes, Luehrman says he’s still the great friend he had in high school, unless they’re playing video games against each other.
Lassiter made the most impactful statement, though, and it’s one of the reasons this team has been so resilient over the last two seasons, and hopefully this one as well.
“He’s still a good guy at the end of the day,” he said. “A guy who wants to win. That who you want to be around.”
It’s clear Burrow’s current teammates have found the same leader in him as his college and high school teammates. Hopefully, Burrow can lead them to a championship like he has in the past.