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Joe Burrow, Ohio State and a broken hand that changed football history

Justin Fields-Joe Burrow-Chase Young-Jalen Hurts-Heisman Trophy
Ohio State has two current players at the Heisman ceremony and one graduate. (Todd Van Emst/Heisman Trust)

Ohio State Football

Joe Burrow, Ohio State and a broken hand that changed football history

NEW YORK — Joe Burrow still remembers all the details.

August training camp. Inside drill. The name of the Ohio State linebacker who hit him.

Even two years later, the former Buckeyes quarterback and Heisman Trophy sensation at LSU still instinctively rubs his right hand reflecting back on the injury that dramatically altered his career — and essentially changed the course of college football history.

“So, it happened during inside drill,” Burrow said at the Marriott Marquis. “Chris Worley thought I had the ball, realized it late and hit my hand. It was just a freak thing. My hand got caught in his pads, and I knew I broke it immediately.

“I mean, I think it altered the course of my whole career. I tried to come back way faster than I should have and couldn’t really throw the ball for a while. I do think about it all the time.”

Obviously everything has worked out just fine for Burrow, who has lit the SEC on fire and has LSU unbeaten heading into the College Football Playoff.

Joe Burrow-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football-Chase Young

Ohio State once had future Heisman finalists Joe Burrow and Chase Young competing against each other in practice. (Greg Bartram/Imagn)

And for the Buckeyes, there are no hard feelings or complaints either moving forward with their own unblemished record and the possibility they could meet the Tigers in the national championship game. It obviously also helps that Dwayne Haskins finished his season as the starter right here in Times Square as a Heisman finalist after beating out Burrow, and Ohio State has another quarterback at the ceremony this weekend after Justin Fields took the reins this year.

But it still makes for a fascinating what-if scenario, and the alternate timeline could be a barroom debate for years to come in Columbus. If Burrow had kept that hand out of harm’s way in training camp, would he have pulled ahead of Haskins in the heated, neck-and-neck battle for the backup job? Could he have been the guy to come off the bench to rally the Buckeyes at Michigan, giving him the lead heading into spring camp?

If Haskins had transferred, would Burrow have followed the same trajectory and been a first-round pick last year? Would the appeal of the Ryan Day offense still been enough to entice Fields to transfer from Georgia, or would Burrow still be in charge at Ohio State and gunning for a national title to cap his legendary career in his home state?

It’s dizzying to spin out all the possibilities, and obviously in the end the debate doesn’t really matter or change anything. But two seasons later, it’s worth a reminder of just how delicate the situation can be at quarterback. One unlucky break played a significant role in changing everything for both Ohio State and Burrow — even if it worked out as well as could have possibly been imagined for both parties.

“Honestly, I never really thought about [the Heisman], I just tried to do what I needed to do to win football games,” Burrow said. “It would mean a lot to everyone that has helped me along on my journey — from youth coaches to middle school, high school, Ohio State, LSU. I think it would mean a lot to a lot of people. I just try to do whatever it takes. This season it was throw for 4,700 yards and 48 touchdowns.

Ohio State-Chase Young-Justin Fields-Joe Burrow-Heisman Trophy

Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts and Chase Young in New York. (Austin Ward/Lettermen Row)

“The injury probably set me back a little bit, yeah. But [Haskins] did a great job coming in against The Team Up North and winning that game, so I think he kind of had the inside course because he came in and won that game.”

Burrow obviously still doesn’t call Michigan by name and continues to show his love Ohio State, where he earned his degree before heading to the bayou. Meanwhile,¬†Ryan Day and the Buckeyes have proven repeatedly over the last two years that they’ll relish any opportunity they get to watch him play, and they still tell stories about Burrow’s competitiveness, jokes and the ability that would make him a star.

Both will occasionally admit to looking back and wondering what could have been different, and Chase Young has taken to cracking jokes this week to Fields about how he wouldn’t be the starter at Ohio State if Burrow was on the roster. That part is also up for debate given how remarkable Fields has been during his first season as a starter, and if the sophomore had been able to play more four-quarter games, his stats could have blown Burrow’s out of the water.

That, of course, is another hypothetical that can’t be definitively answered. Anyway, right now the primary focus for everybody is on what’s next and what could be a drama-filled reunion in New Orleans.

“Yeah, we always knew he could do this,” Young said. “Joe definitely played the way it takes to win the Heisman, and I’m not surprised.

“Joe is one of the hardest-working guys in any locker room. He’s just like that perfect student-athlete, for real. And we knew that wherever he went, we kind of expected him to take over — because we just knew who Joe was.”

The Buckeyes were also there when the journey for Joe Burrow took an unexpected turn. And they might just be back on the same field with him with a chance for another historic moment in the College Football Playoff.

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Ctowndawgpound
Ctowndawgpound

Joe will always have a place in THE OHIO STATEs hearts. But he better pray he doesn’t face this defense in the Championship game!

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Not in my heart. I want the Buckeyes to kick his ass!

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Funny how when Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State he had no idea that Justin Fields was coming into the program, and all he had to compete with would have been Matthew Baldwin, and Tate Martell (lol!). He would have easily won that contest. But Mr. Ohio (Mr. entitled) decided to jump ship and head down to the dredges of hell in Louisiana. Goes to show, that he had no loyalty for Ohio State. I hope we get a chance to blow his lil’ tigers away right in their own back yard in New Orleans. I wanna see Chase Young annihilate him! I would take Justin Fields over Joe Burrow any day, and had Fields played more than 65 % of every game this season, his numbers would have been much better than Burrow’s….You are going down my friend!

Fixdrup
Fixdrup

What a Dick, I mean Meatchicken! GEAUX TIGERS!

Fixdrup
Fixdrup

You won’t get the chance to play LSU. Clemson will beat the Bucknuts just like the last time they played. Keep looking through those rose colored glasses!

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Different team fella

Bob
Bob

Joe was left with no choice but to transfer – he was a top-team QB with only 2 years eligibility left and a lucrative NFL career on the line. Joe was clearly way better than Barrett and Haskins, anyway.

Steven Borysiak
Steven Borysiak

I really think the Buckeyes had better just focus on Clemson or it could be over in the desert. They’re(Clemson) pissed off because their QB wasn’t invited to NYC. They’re pissed because they’re the defending champs and they’re ranked #3.

There.

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Clemson actually gets to play a ranked team this season. They are in for a big surprise. They haven’t faced speed like ours all year long. My main concern is Clemson’s front 4 on defense. I dont think our tackles are very talented on our line, Munford and Bowen honestly suck.

Big johhny
Big johhny

They are undersized group.

Big johhny
Big johhny

They have trouble getting pressure without blitzing. Huge advantage Ohio state. We have Chase young and Co. Up front we will have to contain TL when he scrambles.

Big johhny
Big johhny

You can bet Day will exploit Clemson #19 repeatedly like we did with that Watson bum from TTUN in ’18. Garrett Wilson is really about to show out. Can’t wait!

Michael
Michael

Ohio State is 0-3 against Clemson, with notable defeats including the 31-0 shellacking several years ago, and the Woody Hayes debacle that has only been rivaled by Bobby Knight’s chair throwing.
Clemson will dominate them once more, and the Buckeyes will have to crawl back to Columbus and cry, cry again!
I will call this rivalry “the curse of Woody Hayes”!

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

We’ll see…

JohnJohn
JohnJohn

Michael your college football IQ is pretty low if you think Clemson is going to dominate The Ohio State… Not saying Clemson isn’t good because I know their good. But there isn’t a team in college football that could dominate the Buckeyes. O-H-I-O,……….. Congratulations to Joe Burrow on the Heisman

Bob
Bob

Yeah – like those were the same Clemson & Buckeye teams!!?!! How ignorant are you?

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Hey, look, a new shade of lipstick on Joey.

Michael
Michael

The lipstick is on the pig, THE Ohio State!

Kid Buckeye
Kid Buckeye

Day is a QB guru.
3 QBs in the Heisman finals and one that is about to win it.

Meatchicken Sux
Meatchicken Sux

Day never coached Burrow

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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