The Bengals selected Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft for many reasons.
They loved his physical ability, his athleticism and accuracy. They thought his maturity and leadership was comparable to some of the greatest players of all-time.
Some praised Burrow for his swagger, but head coach Zac Taylor used a different term.
“He has an earned confidence. It’s a confidence he’s earned because he put the work in," Taylor said on draft night. “He’s achieved success on the field with a national championship. I can tell he doesn’t take that for granted. He knows that he has to continue to work even harder than he ever has before at this level. There’s new challenges he hasn’t faced before. You can tell he’s very comfortable in his own skin, and comfortable with what we’re asking him to do.”
The Bengals are asking Burrow to play quarterback, but they're getting much more than just a signal-caller.
The 23-year-old wants to make a difference in the community. He made that clear during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech in December.
“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area. The poverty rate is almost two times the national average," Burrow said. "There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home—not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too.”
Burrow spent 31 seconds discussing an important issue: poverty and hunger.
Those words helped raise over $500,000 for the Athens County Food Bank. He changed the lives of thousands of people.
“It was pretty overwhelming," Burrow said in April. "After the season and especially during this quarantine, I think it really hit me how many people it has helped because a lot of paychecks aren’t coming in right now and that food bank money, that food pantry money is helping a lot of families during this tough time.”
That's the type of person Burrow wants to be. His goal is to be a great quarterback, while also making the world a better place.
Bengals owner Mike Brown has to accept that now, because if he doesn't, he's in for a rude awakening.
“He just begged, like really begged. That was my first time seeing or hearing anything like that — very emotional," one player said. "That was my only time seeing that it was different. The bottom line is that he was begging us, please do not kneel. He didn't want the backfire that was going to come from it."
This isn't the first time Brown has expressed concerns about players kneeling during the anthem. He reportedly asked Eric Reid if he planned on kneeling during a free agent visit in 2018.
Brown might be uncomfortable with protests during the national anthem, but Burrow may leave him no choice but to get comfortable.
The top pick was the first Bengals player to give his opinion on racial injustice in America after George Floyd's death.
"The black community needs our help," he wrote. "They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights."
That's who Burrow is. He's going to speak out against injustice. It doesn't matter if its hunger, poverty or human rights. He wants to make a difference.
Burrow was one of the star athletes that signed a letter that was sent to the United States Congress in an effort to end qualified immunity for police. More than 1,400 athletes and coaches signed the document, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and Myles Garrett.
If Burrow's teammates want to kneel during the anthem to protest racial injustice, do you think he's going to talk them out of it or take a knee beside them?
"This is a guy that is showing his true colors," Higgins told Dan Hoard on the Bengals Booth Podcast. "A guy with his platform is just showing that he really cares. It means a lot."
Burrow is going to stand up against racial injustice. Once the leader of the team does that, the rest of his teammates are going to follow suit.
He's the No. 1 pick. He's the face of the franchise. Burrow has injected life into an apathetic fanbase.
A lot has changed since 2016, including the way NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell looks at players protesting during the national anthem.
Brown's opinion might've changed as well. He may welcome Burrow's willingness to speak out against injustice in America.
If Burrow wants to kneel during the anthem, Brown won't be able to get in the way. He won't be able to deliver a three minute speech to the players on the Saturday before a game like he reportedly did in 2017.
That doesn't mean Burrow is going defy Brown to be disrespectful. If he were to kneel, it wouldn't have anything to do with the Bengals owner. It would solely be about racial and social injustice in America.
The Bengals drafted Burrow to be a star quarterback and the early indications are promising. The organization loves his leadership. Maybe Brown will embrace Burrow's willingness to push for change. If he doesn;t
Wouldn't a true leader stand — or in this case — kneel with his teammates?
"I’m just unapologetically myself," Burrow said on draft night. "I think that’s a good thing and people respect that.”