‘Thank God for Joe Burrow’: A Heisman speech that raised nearly half a million for charity

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My Christmas story is about ex-Athens (Ohio) High School and current LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, and the ripple effect of a 31-second good deed.

Saturday, Dec. 14. Burrow accepted the Heisman Trophy in New York City. Early in his speech, speaking off the cuff, Burrow spoke for exactly 31 seconds about things you don’t hear, ever, in a nationally televised Heisman speech: poverty and hunger. “Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area. The poverty rate is almost two times the national average. There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home—not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too.” In the audience, his parents sat impressively stunned. “I think we were all in awe,” his father, Jimmy, told me. “We never saw that coming.”

Sunday, Dec. 15. When Jimmy Burrow woke up in the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan, his voice mail was full, which never happens, and his phone was bursting with more than 500 text messages. “How can that even happen?” he said. “People are talking about the speech, and then it’s ‘Congratulations on the Heisman.’ We didn’t pound the table when Joe was growing up. It was just, Be thankful for what you have. Respect everyone.” Jimmy Burrow coached for 14 seasons on Frank Solich’s football staff at Ohio University in Athens, a college town in the middle of the most impoverished county in Ohio. “Joe didn’t pick his friends because of their economic status,” Jimmy Burrow said. “He had a lot of friends from all parts of the area.”

Back in Ohio, an Athens High and Ohio grad, Will Drabold, felt energized by the speech. He logged onto Facebook, created a fundraising page for the all-volunteer Athens County Food Pantry at 11:02 a.m., set a goal of $1,000, and left town that afternoon for Los Angeles on a business trip. Donations blew past that and before Drabold went to bed in California that night, he raised the goal to $50,000.

Monday, Dec. 16. NPR aired a story on the speech and the fundraising, and CNN reached out. By 9 a.m. ET, when Drabold got up, and less than 24 hours into this, the total was more than $80,000. The Athens County Food Pantry’s annual budget is about $80,000. It serves about 430 families and 1,200 people.

Nothing like this had ever happened for an organization that pinched its pennies each month. It was just beginning.

Tuesday, Dec. 17. There’s a wall on the Ohio campus that gets painted by community and university groups. By Tuesday morning, it was painted with a Joe Burrow football figure and the words:

CONGRATS JOE BURROW
THANK YOU FOR FEEDING YOUR ROOTS

By 10 a.m., the total was $350,000.

Wednesday, Dec. 18. Drabold’s Facebook fundraiser passed $400,000 overnight. By the end of the day, he’d raise the goal to $500,000. On the phone that afternoon, I told Kirk Cousins about it. “Wow,” he said. “Wow. That’s powerful. It goes to show the platform of football, playing the quarterback position. That just reinforces what a challenge to all of us playing this position. You can really make a difference in a high school, in a college campus, in a community, in a state like Ohio or nationally, like Joe did. What a great job by Joe.”

In a classroom 10 miles east of Athens, at the Federal Hocking Middle School, Sarah Crabtree prepared to show the Heisman speech to her 12 seventh-graders. “I’d say half of my kids in that class are experiencing some sort of financial hardship in their families,” Crabtree said. “It’s so important for these kids to know there are people who make it from here.” When they finished watching the speech, she said she saw “a lot of bug eyes, like, Wow, he’s talking about us.” They sat down to write letters to Burrow. One of the boys in the class turned this in:

Dear Joe Burrow,

Thank you for showing me and other children that no matter where you’re from or your life story, if you work hard you can achieve greatness. Also, thank you for giving back to your community. You have inspired me to not be embarrassed by my life story and work hard to achieve my goals. Again, thank you very much.

The student signed his name, and under it wrote: “Just a kid from Southeast Ohio.”

I asked Crabtree her reaction when she read the letters.

“I cried a little,” she said. “My kids can see themselves in Joe Burrow.”

Thursday, Dec. 19. Jimmy Burrow on responding to the calls and texts: “I’m down to 396 left. I do 20, then I get 10 to 15 more. We thought it was gonna calm down, but then another round of media hit. It just shows what the power of words from the right person can do.”

The Athens City School District Board of Education voted unanimously to name the high school football venue “Joe Burrow Stadium.” The community was surprised at how quickly the decision was made—just five days after Burrow won the Heisman. School board member Kim Goldsberry told me: “Honestly, I felt that it wasn’t necessarily because of football. It was about Joe the person. While he has excelled in football, the ability to bring awareness to our community, and the hunger need, and social issues, it shows he is the whole package, and we wanted to recognize that. This goes beyond football.”

In LSU’s home, Baton Rouge, something unexpected happened: The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank was linked by the Athens movement, and to their shock, more than $50,000 poured in. (By the weekend, donations topped $64,000.)

Friday, Dec. 20. In Ohio, Jimmy Burrow did a talk show in rural Nelsonville for one hour. “One hour of people saying thanks,” he said. In Baton Rouge, Joe Burrow, in cap and gown, was awarded his master’s degree in liberal arts. TMZ interviewed him. “I didn’t expect that at all,” he said of the money he helped raise. “I’m starting to realize the impact I can have on the area.”

Saturday, Dec. 21. Donations were slowing now—$474,749 was the total of Drabold’s drive by early evening—giving Drabold (Athens High Class of ’12), time to figure out just what it all meant. He does communications consulting and strategy and lives in Athens.

“This is what happens when social media works right,” he said.

“We’ve been fighting the war on poverty since, when, the sixties?” Drabold said. “But the needle hasn’t moved in Appalachia. We may well have been waiting for inspiration like Joe’s. When Joe says, ‘You guys can be up here,’ he’s talking to a generation of kids in Appalachia. That could change lives. It’s way too early for this, but could Joe do for Appalachian Ohio what LeBron has done for Akron?”

Sunday, Dec. 22. At 11:02 a.m., exactly one week after the Will Drabold page for the Athens Country Food Pantry was posted on Facebook, this was on the front page:

$477,340 raised of $500,000.

“Who would have thought that, in the middle of a speech for a football trophy, that a young man would have kicked off this incredible fundraising, and this incredible dialog across the country?” said Karin Bright, the president of the food pantry’s board. “We’ve had people call from Vermont, New Hampshire, California, Texas, everywhere, just saying thank you and wanting to help. I truly hope this opens a conversation across the country and we finally address the issues of hunger and food insecurity in this country. We’re better than this. People in this great country should not be going to bed hungry. And for Joe Burrow to put such a personal face on it—his classmates at Athens, he knew, were going hungry. And he remembered that at this momentous time in his life.”

Karin Bright sounded emotional over the phone from Ohio. The board hasn’t decided how to spend the money. It’s still unreal. There are 15 more fundraisers going on, local ones, and she has no idea what they’ll bring in, and she has no idea how many people who say they’re sending checks will actually do so. She said this money is a sacred trust, and she wants to be sure they spend it with utmost respect for those who gave it.

“It’s a Christmas miracle,” she said. “Thank God for Joe Burrow.”

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

What to know about Super Bowl 2023: Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

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The NFL playoffs are in full swing and Super Bowl 2023 will be here before we know it! See below for answers to all of your questions about the big game. Be sure to tune to NBC and Peacock every week for Sunday Night Football games this season and extra content from Mike Florio, Matthew Berry, Chris Simms and more.

RELATED: When do the 2022 NFL Playoffs start: dates, schedule, playoff format, overtime rules, and more

Four teams are left heading into the Conference Championships and only two will make it to Super Bowl LVII. Ahead of this weekend, here’s everything you need to know about the biggest game of the NFL season.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

Who is performing the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023?

It was announced in September, that international popstar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Rihanna will headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

When was the last time Rihanna released an album?

Rihanna’s most recent album “Anti” came out in 2016. The Barbados native has spent the last few years venturing into various business industries including beauty, fashion, and makeup. Additionally, the superstar welcomed her first child, a boy, in May of 2022.

Why does the NFL use Roman numerals?

AFL and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt proposed using Roman numerals for each Super Bowl to add pomp and gravitas to the game. Roman numerals were, unsurprisingly, used in ancient Rome as a number system. I stands for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50 and C for 100. That’s right: In 2066, get ready for Super Bowl C.

Super Bowl V was the first to use Roman numerals. They were retroactively added to the Super Bowl II to IV logos and have been used each year since⁠ until 2016. For Super Bowl L, or 50, the NFL tried out 73 different logos before breaking down and using a plain old “50.”

The Roman numerals for this year’s big game, Super Bowl 57, are LVII.

Which NFL team has the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history?

The Patriots and Steelers are not only familiar with playing on the big stage, but they also know what it takes to come out on top. New England and Pittsburgh are tied for the most Super Bowl victories in the NFL with six each. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have won five Lombardi Trophies each and the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants are tied with four Super Bowl championships.

  • New England Patriots: 6
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: 6
  • San Francisco 49ers: 5
  • Dallas Cowboys: 5
  • Green Bay Packers: 4
  • New York Giants: 4

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

In addition to Sunday Night Football, what else can I watch with Peacock Premium?

Premium is your key to unlocking everything Peacock has to offer. You’ll get access to all the live sports and events we have, including Premier League and WWE Premium Live Events like WrestleMania. You’ll also get full seasons of exclusive Peacock Original series, next-day airings of current NBC and Telemundo hits, plus every movie and show available on Peacock. There is always something new to discover on Peacock Premium.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

2023 NFL Playoffs: What to know about SF QB Brock Purdy Ahead of NFC Championship game

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The NFC crown is up for grabs on Sunday, and it will be Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles squaring off with Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers to secure a ticket to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona. These two high-powered teams have both had seasons for the storybooks, but possibly no story this year has been greater than that of “Mr. Irrelevant’s” emergence.

From the 262nd pick in the draft to a third-string quarterbacking role, the odds of Purdy making a splash in the NFL seemed all but impossible at the start of the season. But just months later, the 23-year-old finds himself captaining one of the league’s most storied franchises on a playoff run in hopes of bringing a sixth Lombardi home to the Bay.

The 49ers will take on the Eagles in the NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. EST. Let’s take a closer look at Purdy’s emergence from “Mr. Irrelevant” to QB1.

RELATED: 49ers vs. Eagles NFC Championship matchup, series history

Where did Brock Purdy go to college?

Before Purdy was a Niner, he was first an Iowa State Cyclone.

In fact, Purdy rose to stardom in Ames much like he is now doing in San Francisco. Purdy entered the picture at Iowa State as the third-string quarterback, in line for field time behind quarterbacks Kyle Kempt and Zeb Nolan.

The season-opener, however, shook things up. Kempt suffered an MCL injury against Iowa, bumping up Nolan to the role of signal-caller. Nolan then saw a rough three-game stretch, forcing ISU coach Matt Campbell to give the freshman Purdy an opportunity.

Purdy would take this opportunity and run with it. He first entered the scene mid-game against Oklahoma State, leading the Cyclones to a thrilling victory over the Cowboys as they edged them out, 48-42. Purdy was now the man for Iowa State.

In his four-year career, Purdy was simply a winner. He finished his time in Ames as Iowa State’s career leader in passing yards (12,170), total offense (13,347), touchdown passes (81), completions (993), passing efficiency (151.1) and completion percentage (67.7). The wide-eyed freshman with an opportunity developed into the winningest quarterback in Cyclones history (30-17).

RELATED: Eagles DC warned 49ers of ‘electric’ atmosphere at the Linc

Jalen Hurts vs Brock Purdy collegiate record

Sunday’s Conference Championship will not be the first time that Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy have gone head-to-head. The Cyclones faced off with the Oklahoma Sooners in November of 2019.

While the senior Hurts and his offense diced up Iowa State’s defense early, Purdy would charge his team to a comeback from the 35-14 halftime deficit. Purdy led an epic resurgence coming out of the locker room, outscoring the Sooners 27-7. A savvy drive from the sophomore late in the fourth resulted in a 33-yard touchdown to Sean Shaw Jr., cutting the deficit to 42-35 with three minutes remaining.

On the ensuing drive, Hurts made a disastrous mistake, throwing a pass into traffic that was picked off by Lawrence White. With the ball at the Oklahoma 35, Purdy could not be stopped, pulling off a few impressive plays before connecting with Charlie Kolar in the end zone.

The scoreboard now read 42-41, and the Cyclones wanted to end the game right then and there. Purdy dropped back for the two-point conversion, throwing a dart to La’Michael Pettway. The pass hit Pettway’s hands, but was then knocked away by Oklahoma defenders. While the epic comeback could not be completed, it was a game to be remembered.

RELATED: Brock Purdy views time at Iowa State as ‘blessing in disguise’

When was Brock Purdy drafted?

Brock Purdy found a home in San Francisco on Saturday, April 30 when he was selected by the 49ers as the 262nd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. As Melanie Salata held up the “Mr. Irrelevant” jersey on the NFL Draft stage, no one knew that the name on the back of it would rise to relevance so quickly.

The seventh-round pick was passed over by nearly every NFL team, except for one. Not even the 49ers knew that this selection would hold so much magnitude, as Purdy was merely expected to be a third-string rookie sitting behind starter Trey Lance and backup Nate Sudfeld.

RELATED: CMC vows to be ready for NFC title game despite calf discomfort

How has Brock Purdy fared as an NFL starter?

San Francisco’s blueprint at the beginning of the season would be thrown out the door very quickly. The 49ers made the decision in late August to retain veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and release Sudfeld, allowing Purdy to remain in his third-string role.

When Lance suffered a crushing injury against the Seahawks in just the second game of the season, it seemed clear that Garoppolo was destined to lead the team to its third playoff appearance in four years. Garoppolo would go 6-3 in his next nine starts, making Super Bowl aspirations once again very real for the team that lost the big game just three years prior.

In a critical battle against the Miami Dolphins in Week 12, however, that vision faded. Garoppolo suffered a broken foot on the final play of the team’s opening drive, and “Mr. Irrelevant” was now QB1.

Purdy’s first drive of the game ended in a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk to give San Francisco a 10-7 lead. As with his starting role in Iowa State, Purdy has yet to look back.

RELATED: Brock Purdy’s PFF grades show how well he operates under pressure

He drove the team to a 33-17 victory over Miami, finishing the day 25 for 37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His starting debut came the next week, against none other than the great Tom Brady.

The rookie tore through Tampa Bay, becoming the first quarterback to ever defeat Brady in his first start. The game ended with an emotional hug from his father, who had witnessed his son take down a quarterback who has been playing pro football longer than Brock has been alive.

Purdy remains undefeated as an NFL starter. Since taking over in Week 13, “Mr. Irrelevant” has gone 7-0, with an overtime victory and two playoff triumphs. While many thought the rookie would crumble under postseason pressure, he has yet to let his team down. In the 49ers wild card battle against their division foe Seattle Seahawks, he became the first NFL rookie to score four touchdowns in a playoff game. While the divisional round success over Dallas wasn’t the prettiest victory, Purdy got the job done, advancing his team to the NFC Championship for the second consecutive year.

Will Brock Purdy play in NFC Championship game?

Now, the seventh rounder will clash with a daunting Philadelphia defense for the conference crown, with aspirations of becoming the first rookie quarterback to ever hoist a Lombardi. On Monday ahead of the Conference Championships, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told media that he’d be “very surprised” if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was able to play in Sunday’s game, meaning that Purdy is still QB1, with Josh Johnson as the backup.

RELATED: When was the last time the 49ers made it to, won the Super Bowl?

Has a rookie QB ever started in a Super Bowl?

Should the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl, Purdy has a shot to cap an unbelievable season with a particularly remarkable accomplishment: No rookie quarterback has won a Super Bowl, and in fact, no rookie quarterback has ever started in a Super Bowl.

RELATED: Ranking potential Super Bowl LVII matchups

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023

Check out ProFootballTalk for more on the 2023 NFL Playoffs as well as game previews, picks, recaps, news, rumors and more.