LSU's Joe Burrow: Nature and Nurture at Quarterback
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LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner, finished up a fairly good season Monday evening in a 42-25 win over Clemson in the national championship game. Burrow threw for 5 touchdowns and 463 yards, down only slightly from his 7 touchdowns and 493 yards in the semifinal win over Oklahoma.

A general pattern is that to get to be a top quarterback these days is a multigenerational project. From Wikipedia:

Joseph Lee Burrow is the son of former University of Nebraska, NFL and CFL player Jim Burrow, who went on to a coaching career that lasted nearly 40 years. The elder Burrow, whose last coaching position was defensive coordinator at Ohio University for more than a decade, retired after the 2018 season in part to be able to see all of Joe’s games in his final college season. Joe was born in Ames, Iowa while his father was on the staff at Iowa State. According to a 2019 Sports Illustrated story, “The Burrow athletic lineage dates back nearly a century.” In the 1940s, one of his grandmothers set a Mississippi state high school record with an 82-point game in basketball. His paternal grandfather played basketball at Mississippi State; his uncle, John Burrow, played football at Ole Miss; and two older brothers also played football at Nebraska.

He attended the 2002 Rose Bowl at age six as his father was an assistant coach for Nebraska. Not long after, he began playing in youth football leagues. Unlike his father, uncle, and brothers, who all played on defense, Burrow started out as a quarterback because his first youth team had no one else who could play the position.

The Burrow family moved to Fargo, North Dakota in 2003, when his father was hired as the defensive coordinator for the North Dakota State Bison. One day while visiting the office, future Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos commented that the seven-year-old had a future in football.

On the other hand, as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in the late 2000s, it’s not easy to figure out exactly which 6’4″ broad-shouldered son of a football coach or a successful businessman is going to succeed at quarterback. (Gladwell overstated his case, but it’s worth remembering his point.) Burrow, for example, couldn’t crack the starting line-up at Ohio State. So he made use of the same loophole in the NCAA rules that Russell Wilson of the Seahawks used to save his career after his coach at North Carolina State couldn’t figure out how to use him so he transferred to Wisconsin: If you have already gotten your undergrad degree, you can transfer without sitting out a year. So Burrow, having completed his Ohio State B.A. in 3 years, transferred to LSU and is now expected to go #1 in the NFL draft.

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