Joe Burrow’s three Kleenex box Heisman speech adds to his LSU lore

Jon Mailhes

NEW YORK – The essence of Joe Burrow’s greatness was revealed in seven spellbinding minutes here Saturday night.

That was the approximate length of the LSU quarterback’s Heisman Trophy acceptance speech, delivered in a manner that confirmed what we have come to understand is his greatest strength.

Which is to be thoroughly prepared for the moment, but not be unafraid to go where your heart and instincts takes you when the unpredictable arrives.

“That’s the most I’ve cried in 23 years,” Burrow said after he derailed his somewhat organized speech with stream of conscious pent-up gratefulness that had him wiping away tears and pausing to compose himself.

Hey Joe, you weren’t alone.

Anyone who watched your speech, including the usual cynical sportswriters who made the trip to the Big Apple to record one of the greatest moments in LSU sports history, did so with wet eyes.

There may be “no crying in baseball,” as actor Tom Hanks once said in the movie “A League of Their Own,” but there sure was some sniffling in the Heisman media room at the Marriott Marquis watching Burrow’s speech.

“When I got up there (to accept the award), all the names of people who’ve helped me get here since I was five years old until this year at LSU came running through my mind,” Burrow explained of his torrent of feelings. “That’s why I got so overwhelmed. So many people helped me get here. I wish I would have had an hour to read a list of them.”

The first thing Burrow did in his post-Heisman press conference was profusely apology to Tigers’ running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Burrow, in the midst of thanking his offensive line, his receivers and his coaches in his acceptance speech, inadvertently left out Clyde the Glide.

The fact Burrow had the foresight to immediately try to right his wrong is what makes Burrow, well, Burrow. He cares deeply about his teammates.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen him get that emotional,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said of Burrow’s speech. “What you saw up there is how he plays, with heart and grit.”

If LSU and Ohio State manage to get to the College Football Playoffs national championship game, there may not ever be a player more beloved by both teams than Burrow, who came to LSU in May 2018 as a grad transfer from Ohio State.

“I am so thankful for LSU and Ohio State, playing at two of the best programs in the country, great coaches at both places,” Burrow said. “My journey, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

“I try to leave a legacy of hard work and preparation, and team dedication everywhere I go.  And I’m surrounded by such great people who make that so easy.”

Burrow’s hometown of Athens, Ohio had to be bawling when he recognized them.

“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very, very impoverished area,” said Burrow, who added later in his post-Heisman press conference he was going to do everything he could to help his hometown. “People there don’t have a lot and I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that come home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here, too.”

Burrow, of course, tipped his hat to his adopted home state.

“I’d like to thank Louisiana,” he said. “Just a kid from Ohio coming down chasing a dream and the entire state has welcomed me and my family with open arms.”

But easily the most emotional moment of the night – one in which Burrow had to stop several times to gather his thoughts – came when he thanked Orgeron for signing him.

“Coach O . . .you have no idea what you mean to my family,” said Burrow, looking at Orgeron, who was also trying his best not to break down in a blubbering Cajun mess. “I didn’t play for three years, you took a chance on me, not knowing if I could play or not. I’m forever grateful to you.

“Can you imagine a guy like Coach O giving me the keys to his football program?”

Orgeron revealed that it was a no-brainer to sign Burrow when the Tigers had no viable starting QB candidate after starter Danny Etling graduated at the end of the 2017 season.

“Bill Busch was on our staff and he had been at Ohio State with Joe and saw him,” Orgeron said. “His exact words to me were `Coach, if we get Joe Burrow, we’re going to be in the College Football Playoffs.’

“The first time we met with Joe, we had several coaches and Joe’s dad in a meeting room. It took me about 10 minutes to realize Joe was the smartest guy in the room including me, and I didn’t mind it.

“Joe’s intelligence of the game and his ability to process is unlike any other player I’ve ever seen.”

And maybe his unshakable confidence, also.

“I had faith in myself,” said Burrow, even when Ohio State didn’t as he turned to LSU for his next chapter. “I knew the kind of workouts I’d done for 10 years. I knew the person I was and the player I could be.

“Everybody who knows me knows I’m all about ball, I’m the calm guy who likes playing football.”

So much so, that he’s itching to get back on the practice field to begin preparations for the unbeaten No. 1 Tigers’ Dec. 28 CFP semifinal date vs. No. 4 Oklahoma in the Chick-Fil-A-Peach Bowl.

If there’s one thing Burrow likes more than individual honors – yes, even greater than the Heisman — it’s winning games.

“Right now, 13-0 is all that matters to me,” he said. “The fact I’m up here (winning the Heisman) is because we’re 13-0.

“There’s still more chapters to be written.”

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