'Absolutely amazed': Ohio community ready to celebrate Joe Burrow as #1 overall NFL Draft pick
ATHENS, OH – Thursday night, the NFL draft begins. It's an event fans have been craving for weeks, and it will be a big night for LSU.
Former LSU quarterback and Heisman winner Joe Burrow is slated to be the number one overall pick. His latest accomplishment is giving his hometown of Athens another reason to celebrate.
“I wouldn't be surprised if there are TV’s set up in garages and driveways so people can social distance in neighborhoods but still watch together. I'm sure that is going to happen,” said Nathan White, the current head football coach at Athens High School and Burrow's former offensive coordinator.
White said many in Athens and The Plains are more excited to see Joe Burrow drafted into the NFL than they were watching him win the Heisman back in December.
“I'm just absolutely amazed,” White said. “If it could get any better, it is with the number one draft pick. It’s just amazing. This feels more real to me than the other two, winning the National Championship and the Heisman. We were so wrapped up into life those kind of seemed surreal to me. This seems real to me.”
White said the draft is all the town can talk about right now, and it wouldn't be the first time Joe brought excitement to southeast Ohio. All throughout fall, the community supported Joe as a Tiger, displaying purple and gold decorations outside their homes.
“People here are just so excited for this because something like this hasn't happened here in a long time,” said Ryan Luehrman. Ryan and his twin brother grew up with, and played sports with Joe. They’ve all been training together in Athens anxiously waiting for the draft.
“As soon as I knew he got the opportunity to get the number one QB spot at LSU, I knew he was going to go into the NFL. I was confident that would happen,” Ryan said.
With the number one spot, Joe Burrow will likely become a Cincinnati Bengal. The stadium is less than three hours from Joe’s hometown.
“Me and my brother, we've been Bengals fans since the day we were born. So this is a pretty unique and great opportunity for him and just to see him play on our favorite team growing up,” Ryan said.
Athens sports fans are split between favoring the Bengals, Browns and Steelers. But to the community, it doesn’t matter what team Joe will be joining. They’ll soon become new fans.
“The biggest thing right now is the sense of pride that everyone here has,” White said. “There will be life-long Browns fans who have Bengals gear and go to the Bengals games, same with the Steelers. It’s similar to Ohio State. Those people will remain Ohio State fans but never missed an LSU game. It'll be the same if Joe ends up in Cincinnati. Cincinnati will slide into the number one slot in southeast Ohio without a doubt."
The NFL Draft was supposed to be in Vegas. Instead, due to the pandemic, Joe will be watching it at his parents' house in Athens with a small group of close family and friends, including Coach White.
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