Joe Burrow is just about to bite into a chicken thigh set on a bed of white rice and slathered in barbecue sauce when a question from someone across the table delays his lunch. He stops, looks up from his plate and gazes toward the questioner with a how in the hell do you know about that look.
He didn’t even tell his mother about this, nor did he tell his brothers, and his father was only briefly aware of it. Just a handful of his LSU teammates really know the full extent of what happened that day in practice when during a goal line drill last November, he tripped and tumbled to the turf, landing on his throwing arm. Crunch. He separated his shoulder.
It was a Thursday. On Saturday, he played against top-ranked Alabama. “Get shot up with a bunch of drugs and go out and play,” he explains. This was not some deceitful Varsity Blues–like ploy by coaches to pressure a player to compete hurt. This was Joe Burrow, already heralded as the toughest man around this town, convincing coaches to let him play in the biggest game of the year. Making matters worse, his backup, Myles Brennan, was injured with a back issue that the program had kept quiet. During a portion of practice that week, Andre Sale, a walk-on, even served as LSU’s No. 1 QB.