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LSU quarterback Joe Burrow poses with the Heisman Memorial Trophy after being named its 85th recipient, Saturday, December 14, 2019, in New York City.

NEW YORK — Joe Burrow’s LSU career will end long before the NCAA starts allowing student-athletes to financially benefit from their name, image and likeness, a cause Burrow has long championed.

That’s too bad for a lot of reasons, among them the fact that a certain beer company could do much worse than featuring him in a reboot of its most interesting man in the world campaign.

Burrow has all the qualifications. Consider a few “MIMITW” inspired (and repurposed) lines:

• Joe has won trophies for his game face alone.

• Joe found out what it is in life he doesn’t do well — throwing incompletions — and doesn’t do that thing.

• Joe, a serious science geek, can identify UFOs.

• Joe feeds Mike the Tiger … with his bare hands.

• Joe’s reputation is expanding faster than the universe.

Well, that last one is true.

With his inevitable but still emotional Heisman Trophy triumph Saturday night, Burrow is the biggest thing in the college game. He is, arguably, the biggest thing in LSU football history. At this point he has only one rival, Billy Cannon, the iconic LSU star who Burrow joined as the only Heisman winners in school history.

Since then-vice president Richard Nixon presented Cannon the trophy at a banquet here in 1959 — Gov. John Bel Edwards was on hand Saturday night but settled for a handshake, not a handoff — Cannon has been the standard by which all subsequent LSU players have been judged.

Now Burrow becomes the new standard, the measuring stick for Tigers for perhaps the next 60 years. The change in LSU football perspective is as stark as going from black and white newsreel footage to 4K digital.

Is Burrow the greatest Tiger football player ever? He certainly has to be regarded as the greatest living LSU footballer. And his season to date — with 4,715 yards passing and 48 touchdowns, both Southeastern Conference records — even without what he may do in the College Football Playoffs, is the best season ever for an LSU player. Just the fact that 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns passing are within his grasp when the Tigers face Oklahoma on Dec. 28 in the Peach Bowl is testament enough to that.

Cannon’s career numbers, carved out of a vastly different era and style of football, don’t compare. Billy never even rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season, for example. But his versatility — back then the best players competed on offense and defense because of substitution rules — and the fact he was such a legendary kick returner gives him a dimension that Burrow can’t compete with. Maybe Tigers cornerback Derek Stingley in a couple of years if they let him play on offense as promised, but not Burrow.

Still, this is an age where having an elite quarterback means all. It’s no coincidence that three of the four Heisman finalists — Burrow, runner-up Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma and Justin Fields of Ohio State — have piloted their respective teams into the CFP semifinals. And the fourth playoff quarterback, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, is no plate of New York deli-chopped liver, either.

LSU gave Burrow a chance to go from pretty darned good to ultra-elite with the fuel-injected new offense engineered by passing-game coordinator Joe Brady, the Broyles Award winner, and driven by offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. And Burrow delivered this season for the ages, something not even dreamt of in any LSU fans' wildest reveries.

It’s hard to imagine now, but almost exactly six years ago, Joe Burrow was a high school junior piling up big numbers but few college scholarship offers before winding up at Ohio State.

He reached out to a man named Dave Berk, a football recruiting consultant who then worked for the recruiting website Scout.com, to ask how he could generate more interest.

“I was wondering if there were any specific camps I should go to to help get my name out there because I’m not really getting any attention,” Burrow wrote in a direct message from Dec. 18, 2013, that Berk re-posted Saturday.

Well, his name is out there now. Up in lights in Times Square. In the words of dozens of well-wishers from Drew Brees to former Tigers like Derrius Guice to Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, the fourth Heisman finalist.

Class move by Young, though nothing quite like the flip move by boxer Teofimo Lopez after he won his bout at nearby Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, then donned a No. 9 Burrow jersey in celebration.

Everyone wants a piece of Joe now. To be like Joe. To celebrate him and in some way claim his achievement as their own.

Joe would like to thank everyone for their well wishes and support. But hold off on any Christmas presents. First, they’d undoubtedly break an NCAA rule or two. And second, he’s about to become ridiculously rich after he’s taken at or near the top of the NFL draft in May.

That’s for later. Now that awards week is over, all Burrow wants is to go about the work of securing two more wins.


Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com