The Joe Cool personality that so many have come to expect from Joe Burrow was not on the stage of the PlayStation Theater on Saturday night, as the senior LSU quarterback accepted his 2019 Heisman Trophy. He was not the even-keeled leader off the field, nor the self-described monster between the hashes, dispassionately dissecting defenses.
With every person Burrow thanked in his speech, he had to collect himself, holding back tears.
To most, the Heisman is a moment of validity to the winner. This year, that stamp of validation went beyond just the recipient. For Burrow, it was a validation of his team.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When I got up there all the names of people who helped me get here when I was five years old to this year at LSU came running through my mind, and that’s why I got so overwhelmed,” Burrow told reporters after the ceremony.
Burrow’s teammates extend beyond those in the Tiger football facility and his family. In his acceptance speech he credited his time at Ohio State, his fellow finalists, and past winners. He acknowledged the economic challenges of his hometown in southeast Ohio, hoping that tonight would provide a bright spot to a suffering community. He recognized entire state of Louisiana. Not the fans, the state.
“No, question,” Ed Orgeron said when asked if Burrow’s speech matched the quarterback he has coached the last two years. “It’s exactly what we have been seeing in Joe since the first day he stepped on campus.”
Burrow’s comments for Orgeron during his speech appeared to be the toughest to endure for the newest Heisman Trophy winner. Burrow repeatedly slapped the podium and nodded his head towards Orgeron to keep his emotions in check, insisting his head coach get a lifetime contract. Burrow’s first acknowledgement of Orgeron wasn’t about how the coach had changed his life or all the great lessons he had learned, but rather how Orgeron made sure that during crawfish season, the team was never in short supply. It was only after Burrow told Orgeron how much he meant to the Burrow family, did Joe thank Orgeron for giving him a chance in 2018.
If he had more time Burrow would have spent hours acknowledging those who helped him along the way. When Burrow met with the media following the ceremony, he did make it a point to acknowledge Clyde Edwards-Helaire by name, after not mentioning the All-SEC running back in the original acceptance speech.
Just as Burrow easily deflected credit to his personal and football families, his families were just as quick to send the praise right back to Burrow. After the ceremony, Orgeron’s accolade was simple: best player in the country.
Orgeron was not the only one who felt this way as indicated by Burrow’s landslide victory. Burrow had 1846 more points than runner up Jalen Hurts, a record for largest margin of victory. His 841 votes were the second most in Heisman history, only to USC’s OJ Simpson. He set records for highest percent of 1st place votes won with 90.7% topping a mark set by Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith and most points as a percent of possible points with 93.8% topping Smith again. He beat out Oregon’s Marcus Mariota for most ballots named as percentage of total ballots, with 95.5%.
Absolute dominantion by Burrow in the voting pic.twitter.com/Nc7Imj2SYD— Eric Saltzman (@evsaltzman) December 15, 2019
“He had a great year and it seemed like the whole country noticed it, and we are so proud of him that he won by that wide of a margin,” Orgeron said.
As the night came to a close, and the magnitude of the moment began to sink in, Joe Cool returned. A tired cool, saying he had taken three naps on Saturday prior to the event, but he was very much there. He showed the matter-of-fact confidence when he casually told Chris Fowler that he “fully expected” to win. Nor did he hesitate standing by his earlier comments that going 13-0 was the best thing that had ever happened to him. The Heisman was second best.
“These awards are nice and I really think they are team awards,” Burrow said. “I think the reason I’m up here is because we are 13-0 and I have great players and great coaches around me.”
The truth is the relationship with Burrow and the team is symbiotic. One cannot function without the other. It took LSU providing the opportunity, and Burrow elevating LSU beyond what many thought he and the team were capable of. When Burrow wins the Maxwell, Jamar Chase wins the Biletnikoff. When Burrow wins the Walter Camp, Joe Brady wins Broyles. Wins the O’Brien, Ed Orgeron wins coach of the year. One team, one heartbeat and everyone eats, at its finest.
“My job is just to get those guys in space and let them do work,” Burrow said of his offensive unit. “We have a great players at running back, tight end, receiver, offensive line, great coaching staff so it’s not just me out there.”
Now Burrow has the Heisman. For him, it is a moment he has enjoyed but one he acknowledges is in its finale. He is ready for the next step, preparing for the next award, the one for the whole team.
“There are still more chapters to be written,” Burrow said. “I’m forever grateful for the opportunity that was given to me at LSU and at Ohio State, and there are a lot of people along the way and there is still more chapter to be written.”