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LSU quarterback Joe Burrow poses with the Heisman Trophy during a press conference, Friday, December 13, 2019, during Heisman Trophy festivities in New York City.

NEW YORK — Joe Burrow unfastened the manila envelope from the legendary family he's expected to join.

Thousands of feet above New York, the LSU quarterback leaned forward in his airplane seat and read the letter from Billy Cannon's family.

It was a private letter, Burrow said, the contents of which he'll keep between himself and the only family that will know what it's like to win the Heisman Trophy at LSU.

The Cannons know what Burrow must be feeling: The weight of fame as he completes his tour of America from trophy award ceremony to trophy award ceremony.

Burrow was in Baltimore to accept the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Atlanta for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. He received the Maxwell Award for College Football Player of the Year.

But it was this next stop that would likely define Burrow's amateur career for the rest of his life, in the same way that Billy Cannon was canonized after he became the first LSU player to win the Heisman in 1959.

It was this next trophy, bronze and iconic, that Burrow grasped with both hands as cameras flashed inside the New York Marriott Marquis on Friday afternoon, when he spoke with the other three finalists a day ahead of the Heisman ceremony.

Oh, yes, the Cannons know what this moment is like.

"They're great people," Burrow told a table of reporters. "To get that from that family means so much to me and my family."

Dot Cannon, 81, met Burrow for the first time Tuesday morning in a 15-minute meeting inside the LSU operations building. She told him that he reminded her so much of her late husband, who died two days after news broke of Burrow's transfer from Ohio State to LSU.

Billy's daughter, Bunnie, told Burrow: "Your entire world is about to change."

Is it all too presumptive? Or is it predestined?


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Even Burrow's former teammate at Ohio State, Heisman finalist and defensive end Chase Young, believes that the Heisman is Joe's to win.

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"If he wins it, I'm not surprised at all," said Young, who leads the nation with 16½ sacks. "I'll say that. I'm not surprised."

Who would be?

Burrow will most likely own every single passing record in LSU history, and he has already set single-season Southeastern Conference records in yards passing (4,715) and touchdowns (48).

If his completion percentage (77.9) stands up the rest of the season, it will break an NCAA record once set by Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (76.7%) in 2008.

Burrow is the catalyst behind the climb No. 1 LSU (13-0) made returning to the top of college football, a "Most Valuable Player" definition that is unmatched by Young or quarterback Justin Fields at Ohio State, or quarterback Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma — two programs that have been in the College Football Playoff within the past two seasons.

The Heisman Trophy's definition of its winner is "the outstanding player in college football."

Within the five victories over top 10 teams, LSU's first victory over Alabama since 2011, an SEC Championship Game beatdown of Georgia, was there ever a point when Burrow thought he'd fulfilled that requirement?

"I just tried to do what I needed to do to win football games," Burrow said, "and this season, it was throw for 4,700 yards and 48 touchdowns. Last year, it was not that and we still won a lot of games. I just tried to do whatever it takes."

Burrow said it's tough to reflect on such a dream season, especially in the middle of all the flights and the pictures and the media interviews this week.

It's all so strange, especially without a game to play Saturday. Burrow said he and passing game coordinator Joe Brady — who won the Broyles Award in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Tuesday — were talking in Baltimore about how weird it was.

"We were like, 'We don't know what to do with ourselves,’ ” Burrow said. "We're on the road. We can't really watch film. We're just ready to get back to game-planning."

There'll be time enough, with the Peach Bowl semifinal against No. 4 Oklahoma creeping close, on Dec. 28 in Atlanta.

But there are the moments that slow time down, that force Burrow to reflect.

There's the meeting and the letter with the Cannons, which Burrow said he is going to frame and hang in his house.

Billy Cannon never saw Burrow play; he died two days after news broke of Burrow's transfer from Ohio State to LSU.

It was Bunnie who told Burrow her father always wanted another Tiger to win the Heisman, and that the Heisman should go to him.

"She said that he would be so happy looking down on me, and that meant so much to me," Burrow said. "And I'm just trying to represent LSU to the best of my ability, and whatever I can do to help the state of Louisiana and LSU, I'm going to do."

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.