All about Joe Burrow’s parents: Joe hails from a family with a rich sports history

After establishing himself as the number one draft pick in the 2020 draft, Joe Burrow faced rumors that he didn’t want to join the Cincinnati Bengals. Dan Patrick of the Dan Patrick Show questioned the Bengals’ title-winning credentials and whether Burrows was ‘all in on the Cincinnati Bengals.’

“It’s a story out there that someone has created that doesn’t have any substance – from our perspective at least,” Robin Burrow, Joe’s mom, told Jimmy Burrow, Joe’s dad, told TSN 690 in Montreal that Joe viewed getting drafted by the then lowly-ranked Bengals as a challenge, but he was confident that the team could win games. 

Two years on, Joe is one game away from Super Bowl glory with the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Joe Burrow was born on 10th December 1996 to Robin and Jim Burrow in Ames, Iowa. At the time, Jim was an assistant for the Iowa State Cyclones. 

The Burrows, originally from rural Northern Mississippi, have a rich sports history. Joe’s grandmother, Dot Ford, once scored a record 82 points in a Mississippi high school basketball game in the 1940s. James Burrow, Joe’s grandfather, played point guard at Mississippi State. 

Uncle Johnny played safety for Ole Miss, and Joe’s dad, Jimmy, was a defensive back for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Joe’s older brothers, Jamie and Dan, played for Nebraska as well. At age 6, Joe watched Jamie play middle linebacker during Nebraska’s 2001 Rose Bowl loss to Miami. 

“He [Joe] always has athletic ability,” Jimmy told WCPO Cincinnati. “So that was fairly obvious when he started his competitive sports – which was initially soccer, and then little league baseball, and then basketball and football, so it was pretty obvious that he was a good athlete.”

Joe became a quarterback, not a defensive player like his dad and brothers, by chance: his third-grade team didn’t have a QB, so he moved into the position. Nevertheless, he still played hard like his kin. “He had no choice,” Jimmy told Sports Illustrated, “we weren’t going to let him not play physical.”

Jimmy and Robin told WCPO Cincinnati that they weren’t sure Joe would make it to the NFL when he joined Ohio State. At Ohio, he failed to secure the starting position, prompting a move to Cincinnati or LSU. 

LSU had struggled offensively in past seasons, but Joe’s parents saw signs that the team was a perfect fit for Joe. Jimmy told Sports Illustrated:

“We had to research the QB situation then and be convinced that things are going to be different with the offense. They’ve been moving in the right direction. It’s been an evolution.”

Joe transformed LSU’s offense, guiding the team to the national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy. In two years, Joe’s sparked another revolution by turning the Bengals into a Super Bowl contender. 

“Gifted to me is a pretty strong word, because he’s worked for it very hard,” Robin told WCPO Cincinnati. “He’s put in a lot of time and effort for a lot of things over the years.”

In the fall of 1976, Jimmy Burrow joined the Green Bay Packers. His first preseason game was against Cincinnati, and his last game before the team axed him was against Cincinnati. Jimmy left the NFL to play in Canada for five years.

Jimmy turned to coaching after retiring as a player. He coached for teams countrywide, including Washington State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Ames High School, and North Dakota State. 

“We’ve been a lot of places, but I haven’t had the nomadic experience a lot of coaches have had,” Jim Burrow told bengals. “When you’ve coached and played as long as I have, you’re going to end up with a lot of different connections.”

Jimmy’s career nearly affected Joe’s early career progression. After Jimmy joined Ohio University, he received an offer from then-Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads to become his secondary coach. 

“I thought after the meeting with Paul, that I was going to get the job,” Jimmy told The Des Moines Register. “We already told Joe we were moving. Joe was going to ninth grade. We were preparing him, but he wasn’t very excited.”

Burrow understood Joe’s unwillingness to move: he’d spent most of his life in Athens, Ohio. If Jimmy’s move materialized, Joe wouldn’t have enjoyed a successful football career at Athens High School. After high school, Joe stayed in Ohio, snubbing Iowa State for Ohio State. 

Jimmy retired from football after spending 51 years in the game. “Counting my playing days, Aug. 1 of this year was the first Aug. 1 in 51 years that I haven’t been on a practice field either as a player or as a coach,” Jimmy told The Daily Advertiser

His motivation for retirement was that he didn’t want to miss his son’s senior year at LSU. Robin traveled solo to most of Joe’s 2018 games, and Jimmy wanted to be there for the 2019 season. He said:

“All my family’s been telling me how great a game is in Baton Rouge. And Joe’s a part of that. And they’re having such a great time with the tailgating and just being a part of LSU football. I didn’t want to miss that… In the end, I wanted to be part of Joe’s senior year as a parent and as a fan.”

Joe didn’t enjoy a leisurely time under Urban Meyer at Ohio State. He failed to secure a starting spot and injured his arm, requiring surgery. As time went by, it became clear that if Joe wanted to make the NFL, he would have to try his luck elsewhere. 

Robin helped Joe cope by driving to Columbus to take him out for vanilla ice cream and clear his laundry. She told Sports Illustrated:

“Literally, it was silly, but I would drive up on Sundays and trade out his laundry with a new batch that was clean, so he didn’t have to worry about that. Little things, so we could keep life as normal and stress-free as possible. Help maintain his confidence, so he’d keep pushing through it.”

Joe told American Press that it was ‘a little embarrassing’ that he didn’t do his laundry at Ohio. His move to LSU ended the regular trips from his mom and forced him to be a bit more independent. “I had to learn how to cook real quickly,” Joe said. 

After Joe suffered his season-ending knee injury in 2020, his parents drove to Cincinnati to support him. Robin picked up where she’d left off at Ohio: she restocked the fridge, brought Joe comfortable clothes, and took out the blankets. 

Jimmy and Robin spent the drive from Ohio to Cincinnati answering calls and texts from concerned family members. They’d just watched Joe carted off the field following a devastating blow to the knee; they would later learn that the impact tore Joe’s ACL and MCL and partially tore his PCL and meniscus.

Joe was out for the season and had a long road to recovery ahead of him. In true Burrow fashion, he tweeted that the NFL couldn’t get rid of him that easily. 

The extent of Joe’s injuries worried Jimmy: Joe Theismann’s career ended after suffering a hit similar to Joe’s. Per Sport’s Illustrated, Jimmy wanted to talk to Joe about ‘how unfair the whole thing felt.’ However, Joe discussed everything other than his injury. 

“Joe wanted to talk about how well they’d been throwing the ball against Washington,” Jimmy said. “But, that’s just him.”

Joe targeted returning on the first game of the 2021 season. “Just seeing how strong in July his leg was, it helped ease my mind,” Robin said. “It was clear he was going to be strong enough.” Jimmy opines that he wasn’t 100% ready when he left to join the Bengals for the 2021 season. 

Robin worried more about Joe’s mentality rather than his physical condition. “I was just worried he might not be able to mentally push through being hit again,” Robin told Sports Illustrated. “Clearly, he’s gotten over that.” 

Joe’s always been a player that gets sacked a lot; such is the physical nature of his game. Robin winced through some of the sacks earlier in the season, but she’s gotten used to it. Jimmy told The Daily Advertiser that he wishes Joe would slide more to avoid physical challenges. 

However, Joe’s game has brought the Bengals to within 60 minutes of Super Bowl glory. Jimmy told WCPO Cincinnati that Joe’s target with the Bengals was to win the Lombardi trophy:

“He just wanted to win games and win championships, and on the day he got drafted by the Bengals, the only thing that he said is ‘I want to win a Super Bowl.’ He’s always, I feel like, been very optimistic and positive. And held his own standards very high as far as his expectations for himself.”

Joe’s parents have become celebrities thanks to his success, which is something they’ll probably never get used to. Jimmy told Sports Illustrated:

“We’re probably always going to have trouble with the idea that this is just the way it’s going to be. We had breakfast this morning, and there’s one other person in the place. A Bengals fan. He wanted a picture. And that’s great. We love people’s support of Joe and our family. But yeah, I don’t think we’ll ever get used to it.”

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