ATHENS, OHIO (WOWK) — In Athens, the Burrow family name is Royalty.
On Sunday, Joe Burrow led the Cincinnati Bengals to their first AFC Championship since 1989.
“We will basically have an Athens party in Kansas City Saturday night,” Jim Burrow said.
Ahead of the matchup, there was a lot of nervous energy.
In Athens, a welcome sign lets visitors know Joe grew up there. Banners and pictures hang throughout Athens High School.
His talents showed early on in pee wee football, but no one could predict the young kid from Southeast Ohio would turn into a Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 overall draft pick, and an NFL superstar.
“We couldn’t have dreamed it,” Jim Burrow said. “It would’ve been a long dream.”
“It definitely has succeeded all of our dreams and expectations,” Robin Burrow said.
Ryan and Adam Luehrman met Joe in the third grade and were his top targets in high school. On the field, it didn’t take long for the trio to see their true potential.
“It really only took us a few games for us to realize that there was something special with our group and everybody around us,” Ryan said. “Being able to have Joe in the pocket is just a good confidence boost, it just kind of gives everybody the energy and confidence to play to the level they know they need to play to.”
Joe went off to Ohio State and later LSU, winning the Heisman in the process. Even in the biggest achievement in his career at the time, he spoke about poverty and the problems plaguing his hometown.
“For him to go up there and say everything that he did, that was really special for this community,” Ryan said.
The speech led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Athens County Food Pantry.
At 25, Burrow has blossomed into one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but to Robin, it’s still her son. As a mother, she doesn’t like to watch her son take some of the hits he takes.
“At the beginning of the season and after his injury last year, it was very nerve-wracking,” Robin said.
Even as his stardom continues to rise, those closest to him will always remember him as Joe and will bring him back down to Earth from time to time.
“Any of those outfits he wears, we all give him a hard time about it because if he were to do that here we would just roast him constantly about it,” Adam said.
Outfits aside, Burrow had the chance to lead the Bengals to a place they’ve only been to three times in franchise history. The Chiefs had been to the AFC Title Game the past four seasons. Nerves were at an all-time high.
“I just need to tell myself to relax and just enjoy it instead of stressing over it,” Adam said.
“We’re anxious and you get a little nervous about it but there will be a time for that on Sunday,” Jim said.
Ahead of the biggest game of his career, the star QB wouldn’t be where he is today without the people who helped him along the way.”
“This whole area and his friends and former teammates can all share in this excitement,” Jim said. “They’re all proud of him too and a lot of people at this school and on that field and here around town have a lot to do with his journey and the journey continues.”
Burrow and the Bengals will take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, February 13.