That way, when the starters turned out to be Burrow’s chums J.T. Barrett (2014-17) and then Dwayne Haskins (2018), the Ohioan realist Burrow could go ahead and graduate from Ohio State before transferring elsewhere in search of playing time and further knowledge. By Sunday, May 6, 2018, with spring practice finished, with Haskins anointed and with Burrow foraging for a fresh longitude, Burrow graduated, even if he did skip the long-winded rite in Ohio Stadium honoring its 6,983 bachelor’s degrees and 11,907 graduates all told.
“He didn’t want to be out there for that long,” his father said this week of the ceremony, but his parents, Jimmy and Robin Burrow, did corral the operative wardrobe items. Joe Burrow donned the cap and gown, and the trio posed beside a tree.
Buckeyes teammate, friend and defensive lineman Jashon Cornell snapped a photo, which Jimmy Burrow tweeted with the benign phrase, “On to the next challenge” which, of course, got the insatiable public going with deciphering.
Later, the Burrows went to dinner.
In quarterback Joe Burrow of the big-talent magnet LSU, this latest Heisman Trophy statuette figures to go to a 23-year-old man who embodies some of the distinctive markings of the college football era. He’s a transfer, and we all know those nowadays. He’s a graduate still playing, and we all know those nowadays. But still more than that, in a vein one might notice from hopscotching campuses and talking to football players, Burrow is, like so many of his teammates and opponents, a virtuoso time-manager.
After all, come next Friday in Baton Rouge, Burrow will have a master's degree in a specially designed program that intensified his bachelor’s major, consumer and family finances. He’ll have all that even if, in their pleas for him to “walk” as graduates do, his parents appear to be headed toward going 0 for 2. How humorous that a young man without a hankering for ceremonies spends this week gathering awards in Baltimore and Atlanta before zipping to New York for a Heisman show elongated and larded with sap through the years until it has become nearly unbearable.
There, Burrow will take his 4,715 passing yards, his 48 touchdown passes to six interceptions and his whiplash smash hit of an LSU season, and join three other finalists — two of them transfers, two of them Ohio State players and one of them (Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts) also a graduate, giving the foursome the rare mix of two Ohio State players (Chase Young, Justin Fields) plus one Ohio State graduate (Burrow). Well, just lump all four among the world’s better time-managers.
“Oh, I mean, it’s definitely impressive; it’s a true testament of time management,” said Jordan Fuller, the Ohio State safety who, deep breath here, is an academic powerhouse, a nominee for a litany of national awards centered on academics and character, an athlete who helped create a student-led seminar on sexual assault and healthy relationships, and who joined a leadership team for an organization called Redefining Athletic Standards, which aims to give black student-athletes a voice on campus.
With his down time a paucity, Fuller sometimes marvels when he hears students here and there say their first obligation might come at some hour beyond noon. Their dialect sounds almost foreign. “And you really notice it,” he said, “when you have group projects with your class, students that aren’t maybe student-athletes.”
Such conversations might go, as Fuller retells it: “When are you free?” … “I’m free around 4.” … “How about you, Jordan?” … “I have practice and can probably get there by 8.” … (Fuller laughed at this point.) … “Eight’s not really convenient.” He said, “Some people would rather knock it out during the day and have some time to relax.”
Say what? His days last winter, while he rehabbed from injury, would run from 5 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m., with football in the front (6 a.m. lifting to start) and school in the back. Come the fall, and the season, just take roughly those hours and flip the two endeavors. It’s all similar to what Joe Brady, LSU’s raved-about passing coordinator, said when referring to the reliability of receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who caught 1,498 yards worth of passes from Burrow: “I know where he’s gonna be at any different time of the day.”
Burrow, who figures to become the second graduate Heisman winner in three years, following Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in 2017, knows those intricate corridors even given the online nature of his LSU classes. His mother, Robin, is an elementary-school principal with a masters in educational administration, and his father, Jimmy, has a likewise masters as a retired but still robust longtime football coach at five colleges, including alma mater Nebraska, where he played defensive back for Tom Osborne. Of Jimmy’s brother, John Burrow, the former Ole Miss defensive back, deputy assistant to the secretary of the Navy, and present-day lecturer at Mary Washington, Jimmy Burrow said, “He’s the only doctor in the family.”
As 25 family members prepare to converge for a weekend in Manhattan, Robin Burrow looked back and said: “You know what? I’m very proud he’s stayed focused and was able to accomplish his goals both academically and athletically. He’s always been a smart kid who, things for the most part came very easily to him academically. Over the years things did come easily to him, so the heavy workload and extra work he had to do challenged him, but he persevered through and we’re very proud of him.”
She suspects that playing three sports as a child, being driven around Athens, Ohio, to various games and tasks, helped him hone his focus. By arrival in Ohio State in 2015, Jimmy Burrow said, “He started maybe thinking ahead. I’ve always said Joe, he thinks a lot before he makes decisions. He had organized his schedule at 18 hours a semester just in case, down the road, the decision [to transfer] became a reality. He had a plan. He had it organized and on point.”
Now: “Now he’ll have a masters and an undergraduate degree in four and a half years. There’s a lot of football things we’re proud of, but that one’s up there at the top of the list, too.”
This, at Heisman time, tells of the rarefied knack of the college football student, one that finds a telltale detail in something Fuller described: “Definitely at times when you have to go to class after hard workouts and your body’s sore and all you want to do is just be in your bed, that’s when you wish maybe you could sleep in a little more or just take a nap.” They know that oddball classroom feeling literally in their bones, yet then, once given even a small swatch of down time, Fuller said, “We start to get bored.”
“I think that’s how a lot of us are wired,” he said while aware that here at the end of the hypercompetitive 2010s, it’s often how they’ve managed to wire themselves.