Cincinnati Bengals star Joe Burrow has already established himself as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks just two years into his career, but there was a time not that long ago when he didn't think football was going to be a long-term option for him.
"I was putting in the same work that I always put in and wasn't playing. Of course there was self-doubt in that moment. I mean, when you don't play for three years, and you're putting in the work and you feel like you're practicing really well and you feel like you can go out there and make plays and do what you've always done but you're not getting the opportunity to show what you can do, it's frustrating."
Burrow committed to Ohio State in 2014 and officially enrolled at the school one year later. He was a well-regarded player, with 247Sports composite rankings rating him as a 4-star prospect and the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 class.
After redshirting during his first season with the Buckeyes, Burrow was the backup behind J.T. Barrett in 2016 and 2017. It's hard to argue that was a bad decision by then-head coach Urban Meyer.
Ohio State went 23-4 in Barrett's two seasons as the starting quarterback, and he threw for 5,608 yards, ran for 1,643 yards and accounted for 80 touchdowns in 27 games.
Burrow, who graduated from Ohio State in three years, transferred to LSU before the 2018 season. He had a solid debut season for the Tigers with 2,894 passing yards and 16 touchdown passes in 13 games, but there was no indication of what was coming.
LSU had one of the best single-season performances in college football history in 2019. The team won the College Football Playoff Championship with a 15-0 record and outscored opponents 726-328.
Burrow set four notable FBS records, including most touchdown passes in a single season (60), most touchdowns responsible for (65), total yards of offense (6,039) and most points responsible for (392). He won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history with 1,846 more points than the runner-up (Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts).
Based on that success, the Bengals used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft to select Burrow. The Ohio native had a promising rookie season that was cut short in Week 11 when he tore his ACL and MCL and suffered other knee damage in a game against Washington.
Returning at full strength in 2021, Burrow took a huge leap forward with 4,611 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and an NFL-best 70.4 completion percentage. He then led the Bengals to their first playoff win since January 1991 and first Super Bowl appearance since the 1988 season.