By Lauralys Shallow
LOS ANGELES — Joe Burrow sat in the third row of the bleachers at UCLA’s Drake Stadium in his orange practice jersey with his hands clasped between his legs and a microphone in his face at Super Bowl LVI media availability on Friday. His eyes were hidden behind blue polarized sunglasses, and one of his socks was put on inside out.
“I always wear one sock inside out,” Burrow said. “That’s just kind of what I do. I wouldn’t call myself superstitious. It’s part of the routine.”
Burrow is someone who makes the unusual feel routine not only in his style of socks, but also on the football field.
Entering the 2019 SEC championship game, Burrow had already shattered the LSU program records for touchdown passes and passing yards in a single season. He and the LSU Tigers were set to face off against the Georgia Bulldogs to determine the conference champions. Despite being the biggest game of his career to that point, Burrow stuck to his routine, leading the undefeated Tigers to a 37-10 victory.
Following the SEC championship, Burrow led the Tigers into the College Football Playoff. Burrow didn’t just win both playoff games, he also made it look easy. Burrow combined for 956 passing yards and 12 touchdowns against Oklahoma and Clemson, both College Football Playoff records. Winning big games is part of his routine.
“The more reps you get in a certain situation, the more relaxed you are going to be in that situation,” Burrow said. “Playing three sports growing up probably helped me being in a lot of different competitive situations and being able to stay calm throughout those.”
Now, in his second NFL season, Burrow is still winning trophies and playoff games. Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals earned the Lamar Hunt Trophy for winning the AFC championship on Jan. 30, and most recently, he received the 2021 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year on Thursday during NFL Honors.
In the divisional round of the AFC playoffs on Jan. 22, Burrow led the Bengals to their first road playoff victory after defeating the Tennessee Titans 19-16. Burrow was sacked nine times, which tied an NFL playoff record. Yet, Burrow still found a way to win the game.
“He got sacked nine times and still came out on top,” Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins said. “You don’t see that, especially in this league. That shows his poise and his toughness.”
The following weekend, Burrow added another unusual win to his Sunday routine against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Kansas City. After falling behind 21-3 in the first half, Burrow led the Bengals to a 27-24 victory in overtime. The 18-point comeback tied the largest in AFC championship history.
“He’s put himself in a position to be a champion at every level he’s ever played, and the team plays off of that,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “We have a lot of great pieces on this team that are capable of playing at a championship level. But when you have a quarterback that inspires so much confidence in the team because you see his work ethic, his preparation and how he plays on gameday, it allows everyone to raise it up a notch because they know we’ve got a quarterback that can do it all.”
Burrow will face a tough Los Angeles Rams defense in Super Bowl LVI. Aaron Donald is the best pass rusher in the league, and Jalen Ramsey is an elite cornerback. The Rams will have Burrow under duress, but the pressure is nothing new to him. The last time Burrow had a chance to win the biggest game of his life, he led LSU to a National Championship. Now, Burrow has an opportunity to win an even bigger game in Super Bowl LVI.
“Right now, we’re just treating it like another game,” Burrow said. “Obviously, it’s not. Two teams left for a ring, but I think the best way to go about it is to try and treat it like another game.”
For Burrow, like his inside-out socks, the Super Bowl is just part of his routine.
Lauralys Shallow is a media innovation and content strategy graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @ShallowLauralys.