ATHENS, Ohio (WTAP) - Athens High School may be green and gold, and Ohio University may be green and white, but Monday night, much of Athens County gleamed Purple and Gold.
Athens native and Athens High School graduate Joe Burrow led the Louisiana State University Tigers to the college football national championship and residents of Athens have been supporting Burrow all the way.
“The city was kind of electric, in terms of everyone being excited about what was coming up, but there was a lot of nervousness as well,” said Athens Mayor Steve Patterson.
Few were still nervous by fourth quarter. Burrow and LSU took down Clemson University and became national champions, perfecting their season, 15-0.
Athens couldn’t be prouder.
“My shoe laces are purple and gold right now and I will continue to wear them for quite some time, I’m sure,” said Patterson.
It isn’t just Burrow’s big win that’s making Athenians proud, it’s how he has handled his success.
Athens High School Principal Chad Springer had Joe Burrow in class just a few years ago, back when Springer was still a teacher. He says he's proud of and humbled by Burrow's respect for the region.
“It’s a very poor area. We have the haves, the have-nots, and a lot of the time, people are just wanting to get away, they just want to be away, and they don’t feel tied to this area. Whereas, he feels tied to this area, he’s proud to be from this area. No different than I’m proud to be a principal in this area. Our teachers are proud to teach in this area and we’re just grateful that we have somebody who has more of a national voice bringing attention to this area and it’s struggles,” said Springer.
Burrow famously mentioned poverty in Athens during his Heisman acceptance speech, sparking nationwide fundraisers and raising over a half a million dollars for the Athens County Food Pantry.
“The way he spoke about the challenges we have within the county, just showed that this is a man with strong, strong, character,” said Patterson.
Many in Athens feel Burrow is a hero and now they want to give him a hero’s celebration.
“We don’t have a date, but there’s many people certainly planning for what can be. I would like to see a parade on Court Street in the early part of a day of activities. There will likely be something out at the football stadium out at the Athens High School,” said Patterson.
City officials are waiting to see when Joe Burrow could return to Athens before deciding on a date for the celebration.
Athens City Schools has already decided to rename the football stadium at Athens High after Burrow.