‘That’s part of what makes Joe special,’ Burrow surprises high school coach with Super Bowl tickets
BATON ROUGE – You could say the phone call Athens High School football coach Nathan White received Sunday was the call of a lifetime.
“Sunday afternoon, Joe called and said, ‘Coach … sorry for the late notice, but I came up with a couple more tickets if you and Sarah want to go this weekend,'” White recalled as he and his wife prepared to head to California for Super Bowl LVI at the invitation of Joe Burrow.
White, who served as Burrow’s quarterback coach at Athens High, tries not to bother the Bengals signal-caller often during the season, beyond a few postgame texts here and there, making Sunday’s call that much more unbelievable.
“Of course, I said this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” White said in an interview Tuesday with WBRZ. “I hope it’s not for him. I hope he gets to do it 10 more times. Obviously, we accepted and we’re flying out there Friday morning.”
Before the 2020 NFL Draft, White and the rest of Athens County planned to cheer the hometown kid on regardless of which team selected him.
Two years later, with the Bengals one win away from the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory, the fact that Burrow is leading the team less than three hours to the west of Athens, makes it that much sweeter.
“We would be wearing [Miami] Dolphins gear, [Las Vegas] Raiders gear, whatever,” White said. “Wherever Joe went, that was going to be our team. I think for the Cincinnati fans, it’s probably a little bit more special having an Ohio guy be the guy that’s kind of running the show.”
And Burrow has shown that he won’t forget his roots. He brings southeast Ohio into conversation any chance he gets, dating back to when he highlighted food insecurity in the region during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech in 2019.
Even amid the pageantry leading up to the Super Bowl, that hometown connection is still on Burrow’s mind.
“Well, they helped make me who I am today,” Burrow told members of the media during a virtual news conference this week. “I wouldn’t be here without all the people that supported me in Athens. I’m still in contact with a lot of those people and try to help the area out in any way that I can. I hope that I’m making everybody proud.”
White said he is thrilled Burrow reached out to offer him tickets to Sunday’s game and believes the move exemplified Joe and the community he feels as close to today as he did when he played high school football in the stadium that now bears his name.
“He has worked so hard in the last few years to kind of remember his roots and always brings up Athens County, and his teammates and his coaches,” White said. “That’s part of what makes Joe special.”