Cigars, sunglasses and diamond chains: What makes Bengals QB Joe Burrow so cool?
LOS ANGELES – Joe Burrow burst onto the national football scene in 2019, and a near-instant legend became forever intertwined with the fabric of the sport: Quarterback of the unstoppable 2019 national champion LSU Tigers, Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 pick of the 2020 NFL draft and now one win from taking the Cincinnati Bengals to their first Super Bowl title.
And yet the 25-year-old's achievements on the gridiron already seem to be taking a backseat – they're at least riding shotgun – to his growing persona off of it.
Burrow seems to have near universal admiration from an NFL community he hasn't even been a part of for two full years and growing crossover appeal – maybe he'll be the guy to fill a Brady-sized hole that currently occupies the league universe – triggered by his victory cigars, Cartier frames and turtleneck adorned with the icy "JB9" chain (No. 9 being his jersey number).
And the nicknames. Oh, the nicknames: Joe Brrr, Joe Cool, Joe Shiesty, Joey Franchise.
"I have a lot of them," said Burrow, who is 7-0 in postseason games going back to his time at LSU, in the lead-up to Sunday's Super Bowl 56 against the Los Angeles Rams.
"Just call me Joe."
Yet to hear Burrow, who grew up in The Plains, Ohio – in the southeast part of the state he famously shone a light on during his 2019 Heisman acceptance speech – tell it, none of this is by design.
"I don't know. I don't really consciously think about it," Burrow said to USA TODAY Sports this week when asked about outside perception.
"I just wear stuff that I think I would like. It's not like I'm shopping (and asking), 'Oh, everyone would love this.' I just have always kind of not cared what anybody thinks about what I wear or what I do, and I just wear stuff that I like."
He added: "I try to be myself to the media, and I think people kind of appreciate that. I don't really think about it too much. I answer questions honestly, I wear some crazy stuff sometimes. But at the end of the day, it's all about what you do on the field. And so I work really hard to put myself in good positions to play really well."
Said another way?
"At quarterback, confidence might be the most important trait that you have," said the man on the cusp of becoming the first QB to win a college title, the Heisman and a Super Bowl.
So call it confidence. Call it swag(ger). Call it Burrow's drip ... if you want. To his credit, he really didn't care to expound too broadly about himself ahead of the biggest game of his life. But many, many others were happy to do it for him, and some common themes emerged as USA TODAY Sports and other outlets asked around about Joe Brrr.
To wit ...
Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah: "He's got ice in his veins. (We have) the utmost confidence (in him). We got him in the huddle, we have his mind and his ability to analyze defenses and just be a leader, just a presence. Ice, cold-blooded killer out there just dissecting defenses. It's great. That's why I call him 'Franchise,' because he's a franchise player and someone who can turn an organization around. ... He is a vital part in why we are where we are. He's the man. I love Joe, man, he's sick. I'm glad he's on my team, that's for sure."
Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who also played with Burrow at LSU: "His confidence grew as we started winning, as we starting playing together. As he got on the field, his confidence starting growing, that's when his swag just started to take off," said Chase, sharing that Burrow wasn't particularly sociable upon his arrival in Baton Rouge. "He started doing that once he started winning."
Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd: "Joey B. got his own sauce. He's not like everybody else. He touches it up a little different. I think as the weeks come on and as the games get bigger, he gets bigger and better – his style goes up, his play performance goes up. Just everything about him is just overachieving."
Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan: "I think the best thing about Joe is he's authentic to who he is. There's nothing made up about him, there's no pretense or falseness. Everything you see about Joe is who he is. He's humble, he's hard-working. ... He's got a ton of respect from the guys in the locker room for how he goes about his business."
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.: "I think if you look up 'cool' in the dictionary, there's a picture of him in some Cartier shades. This guy is smooth," said OBJ, who spent time around the 2019 LSU team. "You can't help but like this guy. He's gonna be one of the greats, I feel like, and I truly believe that. Joe Burrow is definitely cool. ... He's a good dude.
"It really is his demeanor. He just seems fearless. The guy's just a born winner. You just can't not like him. ... He truly was born to be on the stage that he's on right now."
Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth: "Nothing shocks me with him. His mentality and mindset for the game of football is so special and so rare that he's gonna be a really, really good one for a long time," said Whitworth, who used to play for the Bengals and met Burrow in LA a year ago when both were rehabbing knee injuries. "I think people in Cincinnati are gonna have a chance to maybe experience this again a couple more times as long as Joe Burrow's the quarterback."
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford: "Yeah, he definitely has some (swagger). He does a great job in the postgame pressers. I love it. Wish I could've been that cool my second year in, he's nailing that look. As far as on the field, man, he's an impressive player. He was an impressive player in college at LSU. I remember watching and thinking to myself, 'Man, this guy's gonna make a great pro.' He does a great job of dealing."
NFL Network analyst and ex-Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins: "I met Joe Burrow at the combine, and he had on his combine outfit – he didn't have any chain on, he didn't have a turtleneck on, he didn't have any Cartier frames or anything designer on – and you could still feel that confidence. And I walked away from that interview saying to everyone, 'He's confident – not fake confident, not bravado, not acting like he's something he's not or trying to convince you he's confident. He's not trying to tell you that he doesn't care about certain things when he really does. He's genuinely a confident person – in himself, in his abilities.' You can see it by the way he interacts with other people, because he's so confident he doesn't have insecurities. He lifts people up. ... That's one person that no one on the team ever has to worry about. He's accountable, you know he's going to deliver, you know he's going to do his job if the opportunity presents itself. And that's special, especially for as young as he is."
NFL Network analyst and Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin: "It is so powerful when you have (swagger) at the quarterback position like Joe Burrow has it. It means you're the heart and soul of this team, you see everybody gravitating towards you. ... This dude has the confidence that Cincinnati needed. And he made them believe, long before they got to this stage, with his play and his swag."
ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez: "He comes across a little cocky, but he's saying what he means, and he really believes it. He's not trying to be rude, he's just like, 'Yeah, I'm that guy, and I planned on being that guy. I'm gonna go ball, that's it.' ... He's a different cat."
Notably, the acclaim, money, platform and praise are not what Burrow values most about football and being in the NFL. His answer actually ties back to his upbringing and sheds more light on who he is and what's important to him.
"Cultivating relationships in the locker room," he answered when asked what he liked most about his chosen profession.
"I'm from a small town in rural Ohio, and I think what's great about football is you can create relationships with people that you never would've had a relationship with otherwise – whether it's a guy from Chicago or Alabama or Atlanta. Those relationships are rare and exciting for people that come from where I'm from. I would say that's my favorite part."
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.