Tiny Ohio Town Bursting With Pride Over Local Hero Burrow

By MITCH STACY, AP Sports activities Author

THE PLAINS, Ohio (AP) — Joe Burrow has grow to be one thing akin to a mythological determine within the weathered southeastern Ohio village the place the Tremendous Bowl quarterback spent a lot of his youth.

In a area with greater than its fair proportion of sorrow from poverty, the opioid epidemic and ongoing pandemic, Burrow has given individuals one thing good to say as their very own.

“I believe these individuals are proud that he’s from right here, that he carries himself the best way he does off the sphere, as a lot as they’re pleased with what he can accomplish on the soccer discipline,” stated Matt Frazee, a service supervisor for an auto dealership who on Friday nights within the fall is the radio voice of the Athens Excessive College Bulldogs.

Athens Excessive College is right here, however the extra picturesque and bustling faculty city of Athens is 9 miles away. About 3,000 individuals stay in The Plains, together with Burrow’s dad and mom, Jimmy and Robin.

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The group has a few cease lights, a couple of eating places, scattered companies and plenty of trailers in one of many poorest areas of the state. Burrow has talked about going to high school with children right here who usually did not have sufficient to eat.

“Let’s set the report straight — he’s from The Plains, Ohio,” stated Sam Smathers, who began the youth soccer program right here and was Burrow’s first coach. “So while you see it on TV and it says Athens, he’s not from Athens.”

Shut sufficient, say the individuals of Athens and the 20,000 or so college students at Ohio College who’ve claimed a chunk of him. Bars and eating places have renamed menu objects after him. There is a Burrow banner stretched throughout Court docket Road and indicators throughout city. Burrow spent loads of time in Athens, so it is legit.

It is totally different in The Plains although, extra private.

On the middle of it’s a feeling that Burrow left however did not go away the individuals behind.

Burrow’s poignant point out throughout his 2019 Heisman Trophy speech of the poverty within the area was the Joe Burrow Starvation Reduction Fund, which has taken in $1.5 million in two years. Donations are nonetheless rolling in.

His face shouldn’t be ubiquitous on nationwide TV commercials, not less than not but, however final fall he used his title to assist publicize a nonprofit program to assist prepare Ohio employees for in-demand jobs.

Folks right here see Burrow projecting the identical unassuming cool, well mannered forthrightness and unshakeable confidence he at all times did. That he hasn’t modified makes him much more interesting: They’ll nonetheless determine with him.

Smathers, the previous youth coach, is a 56-year-old retired electrician who now retains busy driving a shuttle bus for the college. An enormous, gregarious man with a graying ZZ Prime beard, Smathers has lived throughout North McDonald Road from the scoreboard on the soccer discipline since 1988.

He watched from his porch this week as dozens of automobiles, many with out-of-state plates, rolled by slowly and went up the hill to the “Joe Burrow Stadium” signal. GiGi’s Nation Kitchen, a breakfast place on the primary drag the place Burrow was keen on the Western omelet, is a daily vacationer cease.

Bursting with delight that typically makes him emotional, Smathers is consuming up the media consideration this week. Everybody needs to return speak to the coach who first put in Joey because the peewee group’s quarterback within the third grade.

“Everyone is seeing what I’ve seen for years — you set Joe Burrow on the group, that is the X issue,” Smathers stated.

His storage, recognized domestically because the Canine Pound, as soon as saved soccer tools for the youth league. Now it is adorned with Burrow photographs and memorabilia and serves as a gathering place for anyone who needs to speak soccer, watch video games, and even overview footage of Joey tossing TD passes as a sixth grader. Burrow himself headed to the Canine Pound to hang around when he was on the town earlier than the season.

That is the place Smathers shall be watching Burrow and the Bengals face the Los Angeles Rams within the Tremendous Bowl on Sunday evening.

Burrow grew up right here as a result of that is the place his dad and mom purchased a home when Jimmy Burrow was employed away from North Dakota State by coach Frank Solich in 2005 to be defensive coordinator for the Ohio Bobcats. It was a reunion for the 2 coaches with deep Nebraska ties.

Lots of people are very glad he did.

Kevin Wiseman is the sports activities editor of The Athens Messenger and lined Burrow’s highschool profession. He thinks Burrow’s skyrocketing notoriety has been a galvanizing drive for good that has nothing to do with whether or not the Bengals win the Tremendous Bowl.

“I do know Joe at all times talks lots about how he’s grateful for the individuals from southeast Ohio,” Wiseman stated, “however typically I’m unsure he understands — or he even might — how a lot individuals recognize him right here and the way a lot he’s cherished.”

Extra AP Tremendous Bowl protection: https://apnews.com/hub/super-bowl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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