‘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.

How to watch the NFL on Peacock: Full Sunday Night Football Schedule, live stream info for the 2022 season

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The 2022 NFL Season is in full gear. This week it’s Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals vs Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. with Football Night in America. Kickoff time is at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.

RELATED: FMIA Week 4: Hurts At Home In Philly, Players And Parents On Football Safety, And The Case For Aaron Donald

Every Sunday Night Football game this season will be available on both NBC and Peacock. See below for the full 2022 Sunday Night Football schedule as well as additional information on how to watch every game on Peacock.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule:

*Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, Sept. 8 (Week 1) – Josh Allen’s four touchdowns power Bills to 31-10 victory over Rams

Sunday, Sept. 11 (Week 1) – Bucs take care of business against Cowboys, who lose Dak Prescott late

Sunday, Sept. 18 (Week 2) – Packers roll over Bears 27-10 as Aaron Jones, Preston Smith star

Sunday, Sept. 25 (Week 3) – Broncos do just enough to pull off 11-10 win over 49ers

Sunday, Oct. 2 (Week 4) – Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs dominate Bucs 41-31

Sunday, Oct. 9 (Week 5) – Bengals at Ravens

Sunday, Oct. 16 (Week 6) – Cowboys at Eagles

Sunday, Oct. 23 (Week 7) – Steelers at Dolphins

Sunday, Oct. 30 (Week 8) – Packers at Bills

Sunday, Nov. 6 (Week 9) – Titans at Chiefs

Sunday, Nov. 13 (Week 10) – Chargers at 49ers

Sunday, Nov. 20 (Week 11) – Bengals at Steelers

Thursday, Nov. 24 (Week 12) – Patriots at Vikings

Sunday, Nov. 27 (Week 12) – Packers at Eagles

Sunday, Dec. 4 (Week 13) – Colts at Cowboys

Sunday, Dec. 11 (Week 14) – Chiefs at Broncos

Sunday, Dec. 18 (Week 15) – Patriots at Raiders

Sunday, Dec. 25 (Week 16) – Buccaneers at Cardinals

Sunday, Jan. 1 (Week 17) – Rams at Chargers

Sunday, Jan. 8 (Week 18) – Matchup TBD

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.

RELATED: How to watch/live stream Bengals vs Ravens game 

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. 

RELATED: PFT’s Week 5 2022 NFL power rankings

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.

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

 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!

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

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The 2022 NFL Football season is finally back in session. This Sunday night features a match-up between Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals vs Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. NBC and Peacock have got you covered with access to this week’s game as well as every Sunday Night Football game this season. See below for the complete 2022 Sunday Night Football schedule and find out how to live stream every game on Peacock.

RELATED: FMIA Week 4: Hurts At Home In Philly, Players And Parents On Football Safety, And The Case For Aaron Donald

This year’s Sunday Night Football coverage will feature Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth in the booth and Melissa Stark on the sidelines. Live coverage begins every Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night in America with the talented group of Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Jason Garrett, Chris Simms, Jac Collinsworth, Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. Berry, a fantasy football industry pioneer, will also appear on Peacock’s exclusive NFL post-game show, Sunday Night Football Final.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

Football Night in America will also feature a weekly segment hosted by Simms and sports betting and Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.

RELATED: NFLPA Believes Tua Tagovailoa Shouldn’t Have Returned Last Week, Even If It Was A Back Injury

2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule:

*Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, Sept. 8 (Week 1) – Josh Allen’s four touchdowns power Bills to 31-10 victory over Rams

Sunday, Sept. 11 (Week 1) – Bucs take care of business against Cowboys, who lose Dak Prescott late

Sunday, Sept. 18 (Week 2) Packers roll over Bears 27-10 as Aaron Jones, Preston Smith star

Sunday, Sept. 25 (Week 3) – Broncos do just enough to pull off 11-10 win over 49ers

Sunday, Oct. 2 (Week 4) – Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs dominate Bucs 41-31

Sunday, Oct. 9 (Week 5) – Bengals at Ravens

Sunday, Oct. 16 (Week 6) – Cowboys at Eagles

Sunday, Oct. 23 (Week 7) – Steelers at Dolphins

Sunday, Oct. 30 (Week 8) – Packers at Bills

Sunday, Nov. 6 (Week 9) – Titans at Chiefs

Sunday, Nov. 13 (Week 10) – Chargers at 49ers

Sunday, Nov. 20 (Week 11) – Bengals at Steelers

Thursday, Nov. 24 (Week 12) – Patriots at Vikings

Sunday, Nov. 27 (Week 12) – Packers at Eagles

Sunday, Dec. 4 (Week 13) – Colts at Cowboys

Sunday, Dec. 11 (Week 14) – Chiefs at Broncos

Sunday, Dec. 18 (Week 15) – Patriots at Raiders

Sunday, Dec. 25 (Week 16) – Buccaneers at Cardinals

Sunday, Jan. 1 (Week 17) – Rams at Chargers

Sunday, Jan. 8 (Week 18) – Matchup TBD

RELATED: How to watch/live stream Bengals vs Ravens game 


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.

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

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. 

RELATED: PFT’s Week 5 2022 NFL power rankings

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.

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


 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!