Joe Burrow is about to have an awful lot thrust onto his shoulders if he gets selected with the first overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, including having to adjust to a new scheme while being counted on to provide the Cincinnati Bengals with a new identity.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron certainly believes his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback can handle it. He saw Burrow make the same transformation in Baton Rouge.
“You know, Joe didn’t play in three years, and he came here and he earned the respect of the football team,” Orgeron said Tuesday of Burrow, who began his college career as a backup with Ohio State before transferring to LSU in 2018 and eventually leading the Tigers to the national championship.
“Joe wasn’t the Heisman Trophy winner when he got here. He developed, he got better, he kept his mouth shut. Obviously, we all heard the stories [of other No. 1 picks] going to this team or that team, they haven’t had a good record or whatever. I think that Joe has not had a silver spoon in his mouth all his life. I think Joe has had to fight all his life. And I think if he does have to fight — and it may be Cincinnati — he’s willing to fight for that. And he’s willing to build a team. And he’s willing to go through adversity if he has to.
“Nothing was promised to him here [at LSU]. He came here with faith and built a championship team. And I don’t see why he couldn’t do it at Cincinnati.”
The Bengals’ situation is a bit different. LSU wasn’t coming off a 2-14 season when Burrow arrived. And the Tigers won two national championships in the previous decade, while the Bengals have never won a Super Bowl and haven’t won a playoff game in nearly 30 years.
But Orgeron said Burrow’s combination of “work ethic, attitude and smarts” will translate and “make him a great player.”
“The way he worked every day, the way he earned the right to be the starting quarterback at LSU, the way he got better, the way he captured the football team, the way he led,” Orgeron said when asked what gives him confidence Burrow can make another positive transition, this time to the NFL. “Joe is probably the most focused football player I’ve ever been around. We gave him the team, along with other guys. They took leadership.”
Burrow won’t be the only LSU standout trying to find NFL success, as the Tigers could potentially have eight players selected among the top 50 picks.
LSU has a chance to shatter the record of 14 players taken in a seven-round draft, which was set by Ohio State in 2004. The Tigers could even threaten the 12-round record of 17 players from Texas being selected in 1984.
“That and 50 cents will get you a cup of coffee tomorrow,” Orgeron joked. “No, it means a lot. It means development. It means recruiting great-character kids. It means a lot with recruiting.
“The reason you come to a school like LSU is you want to win a national championship, you want to graduate and you want to get drafted. … I think it adds validity to your program. I think it enables you to recruit across the country. Obviously, we have a national brand right now. We want to stay in the state of Louisiana with our great players, and we’ll want to continue to win championships.”
Orgeron, who has been a leading voice in Louisiana’s efforts to keep people safe and following state guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, said he is eager to get back to work when it’s safe.
“I’ve been watching too much television,” said Orgeron, adding that Peyton’s Places on ESPN+ is a personal favorite. “Hey, I’m done with the television. I’m ready to go to work!”
Orgeron said he was unsure, however, how much time there will be for training camp and scrimmages before a season would potentially kick off.
“We’re not sure of that yet. I think there will be some [time to prepare],” Orgeron said. “Obviously, I think we’re gonna have camp. I think that come August, we should have camp. You have to have camp to get ready for the season. I think that June and July is still up in the air.
“There’s some talk about these things, get working out or maybe getting a little time on the football field. We’ll just see. Obviously, it’s out of our control. But I do believe that you need several weeks in the summer of conditioning. I think you need several weeks in the summer of some type of football. And then give them a little break and come back to camp and get ready.”