NEW YORK (Reuters) - From college cub to Tiger King, it is only fitting that first overall draft pick Joe Burrow will roar into the NFL just a 2-1/2-hour drive from his beloved Athens County, Ohio.
With the 740 area code emblazoned on his shirt in a nod to his home turf, the Heisman-winning quarterback for the LSU Tigers was selected first by the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday.
And the man with the golden arm was happy to share the spotlight with his home state.
“I wanted to get something to represent my home area, my home town,” Burrow said of the Nike-designed shirt, which also included an outline of the state of Ohio. “I just want to show as much appreciation to this area as I can.”
Burrow was all but assured the number one overall spot in this year’s “virtual” draft, held online because of coronavirus lockdown measures and lacking the usual glamour of the annual NFL affair.
Burrow dominated the college football landscape in his senior year with Louisiana State University, claiming an NCAA record with 60 touchdown passes in 15 starts, and clinching the National Championship as well as winning the Heisman Trophy, given to the outstanding college player of the season.
Burrow drew plaudits in December for his Heisman speech, in which he thanked the state of Ohio and encouraged the next generation of players from the region.
“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average,” said Burrow in the speech.
“There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot, and I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school.
“You guys can be up here, too.”
The son of former NFL player Jim Burrow, a former Ohio University football defensive coordinator, the 23-year-old led the country with 5,671 passing yards last season, with the kind of on-field productivity that has brought high expectations for his move to the professional league.
The mood was definitely up on draft night for many Bengals fans across the state.
“Congratulations to Ohioan @Joe_Burrow10 who was selected by the @Bengals as the first draft pick in 2020!” tweeted Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “Can’t wait to see him play!”
After donning a Bengals cap and hugging his parents, a subdued Burrow made clear on social media that he was ready to claw his way to the top of the NFL.
“Enough talk,” he tweeted. “Time to get to work.”
Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Tom Hogue