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ASHBURN, Va. – As Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow sat on a wagon preparing to leave FedEx Field on November 22, 2020, when his season was over due to a knee injury, his former college teammate, Chase Young, went to lean over sig in. He told Burrow that he loved him; he told him to get well. And then Young prayed a little prayer.
But the Washington Commander’s pass-rusher also knew one thing: Burrow would be back. And he might be even better. Burrow is a major reason for the Bengals to play against the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl LVI on Sunday (18:30 ET, NBC).
“Joe is that guy,” Young told ESPN. “No one is really surprised.”
Although Burrow got his name from LSU, where he won a national title and the Heisman Trophy – Young was also one of four finalists with him in New York – Young said that those who knew Burrow before he became a household name understood his potential.
The quarterback spent three years at Ohio State and switched in 2018 after graduating after a spring competition against Dwayne Haskins for the starting job. Young spent a season with Burrow as an Ohio State teammate.
“A guy’s work ethic tells who he is, and Joe was always a guy who was never afraid to work,” Young said. “He always wanted to be first in everything. We used to run our team and it was a competition; Joe would never lose.”
Young then pointed to a video that recently resurrected shows Burrow involved in a contest in Ohio State. A deck was placed between two players – Burrow and linebacker Pete Werner. The players then grabbed the deck with the goal of pulling the other guy outside a designated area on a mat. Burrow won.
“We knew where Joe was going, he wanted to be ‘that guy,'” Young said. “We know how connected he is. Everything Joe does, I look at it and smile.”
Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer once told ESPN that Haskins won the job over Burrow in part because even though he saw Burrow as a stronger competitor – because of his days as a three-sport standout in high school – Haskins was more advanced as to use.
“Joe can deliver that stone now,” Young said. “It was never a problem.”
It was not his behavior either. Some refer to him as Joe Cool for how he handles situations such as leading a comeback from a 21-3 deficit on Jan. 30 in the AFC Championship Game to beat Kansas City on an overtime field goal.
“Joe was always cool,” Young said. “I remember my first year, I was at a home party and saw Joe there. He was fine, he danced. He was always a good teammate, just a good guy who loves ball.”
During the 2019 season, another former Ohio State teammate, Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin, was asked about Burrow. McLaurin’s eyes lit up, and he said, “That’s my boy!” He later said that Burrow can encourage a team and that others will compete with him because he plays with an edge. That’s why McLaurin, who was also around the wagon when Burrow was injured in 2020, knew the quarterback would be OK.
McLaurin, who spent three years with Burrow in Ohio State, also predicted something to come true.
“He always comes back from adversity, from challenges,” McLaurin said the day Burrow was injured. “He attacks them with his head … and beware, for he is a guy who, every time he is overthrown, rises a little stronger again.”
That’s what Young is hoping for himself after tearing his ACL in his right knee on November 14 – almost a year after Burrow’s injury. Young has retrained his knee in Colorado and says he is already squatting 225 pounds and performing one-legged squats with weight on the back of his knee. He jumps too.
“I’m in Rocky Balboa’s mindset when he went to the mountains, shopped for trees and stuff,” Young said, referring to the movie “Rocky IV.” “I start with blue collar, that gravel, just get that mindset, so when the season comes, I’m ready to rock.”
Young did not have the kind of season he or others expected. After a strong end to his rookie year – he scored four of his 7.5 sacks, forced two fumbles, recovered three and scored a touchdown over his last six games of the 2020 season – he struggled to play big games in 2021. doubles and chip blocks from opposing tight ends, he finished with 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in nine games before his season-ending injury.
“Everyone has hiccups on the road,” he said. “It’s not about how you start, it’s how you end. I plan to … keep working hard and just work for the person I want to be, the Hall of Famer I want to be a day.”
For now, though, Young is off to the Super Bowl as part of USAA’s Salute to Service platform. Through USAA, Young awarded a trip to Los Angeles plus two Super Bowl tickets to Capt. Darryl Griffing, member of the Georgia Army National Guard. Young meets with Griffing on Saturday in Los Angeles.
Young said he has a soft spot for the military because his grandfather was in the Air Force.
“It’s crazy; it’s a blessing to be able to hurt others,” Young said. “By knowing my grandfather, he would be really proud of me.”