Before leading the Bengals to a rare Super Bowl appearance (their first in 33 years) this past February, Joe Burrow wasn’t sure he’d make it as a pro quarterback. Unable to carve a role for himself at Ohio State, where he spent two years backing up J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins, Burrow never stopped chasing his dream. But he had his doubts, preparing for a career in investment banking if football didn’t pan out. And it almost didn’t.
“I was putting in the same work that I always put in and wasn’t playing,” Burrow told Chris Simms of NBC Sports. “Of course, there was self-doubt in that moment. I mean, when you don’t pay 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 was ultimately rewarded for his determination, resurfacing at LSU and enjoying what many would consider the greatest statistical season in NCAA history in 2019. A year later, Burrow encountered another setback, tearing his ACL 10 games into his rookie season. The Heisman winner would earn Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2021, ending the Bengals’ postseason drought—a humiliating dry spell dating back to 1990—with wins over Las Vegas, Tennessee and Kansas City en route to Super Bowl LVI.
“There were times when I started updating my resume, thinking about being an investment banker,” said Burrow. “Fortunately, the work that I put in during those three years really paid off.”
Despite losing the Super Bowl by only a field goal, the Bengals enter the year as long shots, with worse title odds (+2200 on DraftKings) than 10 teams including five in their own conference (Buffalo, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Denver and Cleveland).