We love our heroes.
What’s the anatomy of the mythologization of an athlete? For some, it’s manifest. An iconic play. A dominant season. An outlandish personality. Being or not being the guy before/after the other guy.
But, take the case of Joe Burrow. Burrow just completed one above-average season as LSU’s quarterback. And yet, he carries a mythology that I dare say Jamarcus Russell never will to the bulk of the LSU fanbase. And no, I’m not ignoring the racial component to this either. Looks at Burrow’s numbers in year 4 next to Russell’s in year 3.
Burrow vs. Russell
Burrow proved to be more of a dual threat while Russell was a more accurate passer. Otherwise, pretty much down the line peers. Russell took a catastrophic leap forward his Junior season and what’s next for Burrow remains to be seen, though Spring Ball (Spring Ball!) offers a lot of early promise.
Even still, I bet in a blind poll, many would pick Burrow over Russell today. It’s a remarkable bit of mythology making. Even if we compare Burrow to Etling. Burrow’s a step back in all measures of efficiency but no one would even consider them in the same ballpark in terms of their play. Ok, maybe Seth would.
Burrow’s ascended to legendary status without having a defining season and without even really having a defining play. The simplest definition I can muster is that Burrow “looks like he cares.” Probably in the same way that Jarrett Lee did, despite being an inferior player to Jordan Jefferson throughout his entire career. Fans latched onto Lee and derided JJ because JJ, for better or worse, never showed emotion. Of course, show too much emotion and fans will turn on you for that too. That sweet emotive spot... that’s where legends are born.
Myles Brennan took the figurative podium this week to talk about the winding path to becoming LSU’s QB, a job to which he’s yet to even ascend. After arriving with much fan fair in 2017, plenty of which came from yours truly, Brennan never took the starting role from Etling and then hardly played last season while dealing with injuries and working on adding the necessary weight.
Brennan opened up about his struggles with weight gain and how’s forced himself to eat to add the bulk he needs to endure the rigors of college football. He reported he’s up to 207 pounds, which is welcome news. But the most notable quote, the one that will place him on the rocket path for legend status is this:
When asked about patience, Brennan reiterated that he made a commitment to be at LSU and he feels he needs to stand firm to that. Undying loyalty, that’s the stuff of legend.
Can Brennan save the LSU offense? Time will tell. Or it won’t. Perhaps Burrow ascends to heaven and returns to deliver a National Title to Baton Rouge in 2019? That alone would be a tough act for the Wonder Bread QB to follow. Or maybe he’s the spiritual descendant of Curley Hallman, the piece we never received - the incarnate Brett Favre, hailing from the same homeland, even? Or maybe another path altogether.
But there’s something scintillating about watching a player achieve his potential. Not every player arrives to LSU a fully formed nightmare like Derek Stingley. In fact, most begin on a developmental arc that crescendoes as they hit their upper class seasons and their bodies dial into peak physical form.
It’s easy to lose patience. Especially when you are waiting for a savior. Myles Brennan isn’t the savior of LSU football. But he might be the sign of the Second Coming.