Less than an hour after LSU Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow was officially chosen as the No. 1 overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft last Thursday, Burrow conducted a 25-minute Zoom teleconference with the media.
Standing in the living room of his parents’ home in Athens, Ohio, Burrow appeared to succeed in his first chance at charming Cincinnati media who cover the Bengals.
Here’s what he said:
On the pressure of being a first-round draft choice
“You don’t think about it. You just continue to work hard and continue to do what got you here. Being the No. 1 pick won’t mean anything in four months, so I’m going to continue to work really hard to continue to be the best player I can be for this team, this franchise and this city.”
On the best attribute he brings to the Bengals
“Leadership. I’ve always been good at bringing everybody together to form a common goal. I think my work ethic permeates throughout the team. I’m excited to get around the guys.”
On how he kept faith after not playing at Ohio State
“It was tough. When you have all that failure for three years, it kind of weighs in your mind. But I just kept faith in the fact I knew I was working really hard and improving every single day. When I wasn’t playing, I was in the weight room, I was staying after practice to improve my game to the point where I am now.
“Then, after the last few games of my junior season (at LSU) when it really started to click for me, I knew exactly what I had to work on in the off-season to really take my game to the next level. That made me super confident in myself. I also had great players and great coaches around me that I had total faith in.”
On if he realizes his already-instant popularity in Cincinnati
“I have and I’m very excited to reciprocate that to the fans and to the city. I think it’s going to be a great relationship and I think we’re going to win a lot of football games and that’s going to make it a lot better.”
On why he’s a good leader
“I’m not sure what it is about me, I just work really, really hard every day and I think that probably rubs off on people. But I’m unapologetically myself and I think people respect that.”
On if he’s aware that Cincinnati has a lot of offensive weapons
“I am. The thing about the NFL is there are good players everywhere. A couple of injuries here and there can really change a season and change you from a playoff caliber team to a 2-14 team. We have what it takes. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do. Hopefully, I can bring something to the team that is positive and about wins.”
On what he needs to improve
“Everything has to be a step faster in the NFL, so I have been working on faster footwork, faster release, stronger arm, just the whole package has to become better when you get to this level.”
On the reaction to his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech which resulted in millions of dollars of donation to the Athens food bank
‘It was pretty overwhelming. But after the season and especially during this quarantine, it really hit me how many people it has helped. Because a lot of paychecks are coming in right now. That food bank money and food pantry money is helping a lot of families.”
On the difference between swagger and confidence
“Swagger it’s something but there’s not really anything behind it. Confidence has preparation behind it. There’s a lot of false confidence out there that I think you could describe as swagger. The reason I am so confident is I know the work I put in and I know the preparation I do before every single game and in the off-season.
“There’s the old saying that there’s always someone out there that’s getting up earlier and working harder. So, I’ve always tried to be that other person. When people say that, I try to be the guy that they’re talking about.”
On being efficient with his film study
“I think a lot of people say, `I spent five hours watching film yesterday.’ OK, what are you watching? Were you watching a quarterback make a great throw? That’s not how you watch film.
“The key is being efficient with your time. I really honed in on that this past year. I had a very structured routine. I had a different routine Sunday through Thursday. I had very structured routine on how I watched film and prepared for the week.”
On adjusting to the fact Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991
“You don’t mentally adjust at all. You don’t sacrifice your standards for anything. Going into a season and thinking our goal is to win a playoff game this year, I don’t think that’s the case, that’s not the right way to go about it.
“You go into the season saying we’re going to work really really hard and focus on one play and one week at a time and we’re going to win a lot of football games that way.
“I think if you go in thinking `Aw, this is the year we’re going to make the playoffs, this is the year we’re going to win a playoff game,’ it gets too daunting. It sounds corny, but you’ve got to focus on every single step of the process.
“For me, it doesn’t matter where you get picked. I could have been the 189th pick, I could be No. 1. I’m going to work the exact same and try to be the best quarterback I can be for this city.”
On when he knew LSU would win the 2019 national championship
‘As soon as we walked off the field after the (Fiesta) bowl game the year before, I knew what was going to happen. We didn’t focus on winning the national championship, we focused on dominating every single team that we played.”
On why he connects so well with people
“I think I’m fairly good at connecting with a lot of different people. I’m a southeast Ohio kid. I think my high school prepared me for it a little bit where we’re not super racially diverse but we’re very socioeconomically diverse. So, you get a lot of different kinds of people and that allowed me to connect to a lot of different people.
“That really helped me when I was at Ohio State and going down to LSU, I’ve been able to connect with people from rural Ohio, inner-city New Orleans, rural Louisiana, that’s something I do very well.”
On if the mandated social distancing has helped or hurt his training
“It has been an advantage for me. I’m know I’m not missing any workouts from flying and jet lag. I’m just focusing in on my routine, throwing, lifting, running. I’ve really changed my body the last few months and I’m going to keep building it up for the season. The NFL is a physical game.
“I’ve leaned out a lot the last few weeks and it helps to have money to buy the right kind of food. My next goal is to put more muscle on and gain some more weight before the year starts.”
On the importance of learning the playbook quickly
“I’m getting in this playbook hard and going through the process of calling plays in the huddle. The thing about being in the huddle is you have to be stern with your voice. If you’re in there wavering and fumbling over words, guys will be like `What is this guy doing in here, Coach? Get him out, get somebody else in.’”
On if he believes there is immediate pressure on him to play well and win
“Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. I’m not going to focus on that. Focus on putting in the work every day to become the best I can be. I think the media loves to talk about pressure and I think some guys let it get to them. But if I put in the work, I think that pressure is going to be mitigated.”
On when he thinks about his whirlwind past year winning the Heisman Trophy and national championship
“Hopefully in 20 years after I retire. I haven’t thought about it in months.”
On how he approaches working with current Bengals’ veteran starting QB Andy Dalton
“If I’m with Andy for a year, it would be a great learning experience because he’s done it for a long time and has played at a high level. If I’m all alone in there with some younger guys, I’m going to make it work, too. Either way, I’m going to work to be the best player I can be.”