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Joe Burrow, Hometown Hero

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, in his Heisman acceptance speech, remembering the hunger of his hardscrabble Ohio hometown (ESPN)

Here in Louisiana, today, the day of the national championship game between the LSU Tigers and the Clemson Tigers, feels like a combination of Mardi Gras and the Second Coming. If LSU wins, the entire state is going to rise up and proclaim Coach Ed Orgeron as our god-king. It sounds like quarterback Joe Burrow is well on his way to a similar status in his hardscrabble Ohio hometown. The New York Times shares the good news of what this admirable young man has done [sorry, gang; I inadvertently put a YouTube URL here; it has been corrected to link to the NYT piece:

Joe Burrow has been gone from Athens High School for five years now, off to climb other mountains. But when he jotted down a few bullet points on a hotel notepad and walked up six steps of a Midtown Manhattan stage last month to accept the Heisman Trophy, he had not forgotten what it was like at the bottom of the hill.

“I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school,” Burrow said that night, pausing at times for effect. “You guys can be up here, too.”

Burrow spoke for six minutes, thanking his family, his teammates and his coaches at Louisiana State University — which he, as the team’s quarterback, has led to Monday night’s national championship game, against Clemson. He also thanked the coaches at Ohio State, where he began his college career. Several times, he stopped to wipe away tears.

But it was those 30 seconds that he spoke, with clarity and authority, about the troubles of his hometown, where he arrived in the third grade as a son of a football coach and stayed put, that carried the greatest resonance.

Inspired by Burrow’s appeal, a local activist raised over $500,000 for the food bank. More:

On Thursday, dozens of paper grocery bags stocked with beef stew, chicken, tuna, canned fruit and vegetables, rice, pasta, sauce and bread stood ready on a broad table at the Athens County Job and Family Services offices, where volunteers from the pantry logged arrivals, asked families how much they needed and distributed a corresponding amount of food.

One man came for a household of 10. A young woman with scabbed skin toting a young boy arrived. Another man came for an older neighbor who was ill. By midafternoon, 42 families had been served.

“There’s a lot of research, and you hear ‘food insecurity,’ but you don’t know it until you live it,” said Nicolette Dioguardi, a retired lawyer who volunteers. “Until you’ve eaten chicken back soup and popcorn for dinner, you don’t know what food insecurity is.”

Cheryl, a neatly dressed woman who did not want to give her surname, never expected to be stopping by. It is one of three places where she receives food each month. She said that she retired from the county health department after 15 years and that her husband, a diabetic, retired from a supermarket chain with plans to spend winters in Florida. But a mudslide badly damaged their home and wiped out their savings. Their pension checks leave them $200 a month for food and gas.

“I’m embarrassed to be here,” she said. “It’s a lifestyle I never planned on.”

Read it all. You think this doesn’t touch the Burrow family? Read this story to learn how the hunger affects Joe’s mother.

I expect Joe Burrow to lead the LSU Tigers all the way tonight. But if the team loses, we all know that this year, our team was captained by a young man who is a winner to the marrow. Here’s a clip from Burrow’s Heisman speech, starting with his remarks about hunger in his hometown. These few heartfelt lines brought half a million dollars to feed the hungry there. Incredible:

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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