Joe Burger played on Ohio State’s national championship football team, threw out the first pitch at a Reds game and met President Obama, all in the last nine months.
It all started for Joe, a La Salle High School 2012 grad, awhile back. Joe had a great senior year at La Salle. He played on a basketball team that went 21-1 and won the city championship.
However, it was at football that he excelled. He was voted GCL Linebacker of the Year; he was also voted first team all-city and all state.
Joe really liked Ohio State coach Urban Meyer from the first time he met him. He also liked Meyer’s history of winning, so he decided to become part of Urban Meyer’s first recruiting class.
Early on, it was pretty tough. Sometimes he wondered why he was there. Joe commented, “I was a young 18. I didn’t turn 18 until June. There were guys going against me that were 22-23-years old that had been working out for four years. They were more mature and more developed. I took my beatings.”
That brings us to Joe’s incredible junior year. The No. 5 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes opened their season with a 34-17 victory against Navy in Baltimore. Next week they played Virginia Tech at home. In a stunner they lost 35-21. The Hokies led 21-7 at halftime and never looked back.
Just two weeks into the season it appeared the Buckeyes’ dreams of making the playoffs were dashed. Ohio State, however, went on to defeated Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan in a row. In doing so they moved from No. 16 to No. six in the playoff poll. Their final game was against No. 11-ranked Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship. If they wanted to have any chance at the playoffs they needed a decisive victory. They crushed Wisconsin 59-0.
When the final playoff poll came out, Joe explained what happened when he found out, “I was with three of my closest friends on the team. We were all sitting there waiting with the TV turned up full blast. When it rolled out Ohio State name as the fourth team, we all jumped up and celebrated giving each other hugs and high fives. It was a surreal moment.”
The Buckeyes went on to defeat No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon to win the national championship. That season, Joe played in every game and was in for more than 200 plays.
As a result of winning the National Championship, Ohio State was invited to a Cincinnati Reds game and Joe was one of the players given the honor of throwing out the first pitch.
“I immediately got my glove and started practicing because I didn’t want to screw up this opportunity. Kris Negron was my catcher. I threw it right to him and afterward he came up and gave me a handshake and he said congratulations. That was really cool,” he said.
Another perk for winning the National Championship was the whole Buckeye football team was invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama.
“We knew when we won that we would get to meet the President. The coolest part was walking into the White House and taking in all of that history,” he said. “Then when President Obama walked into the room and you hear his voice, I got star struck. There is not a better-known person in the world than him; and when he came to shake my hand, I said, ‘I’m Joe Burger’ and he said, ‘Congratulations’. That was pretty cool.”
Joe also got to go to the Martin King Jr. memorial and visit the floor of the House of Representatives. The team got to visit the State House in Columbus. For Joe, all in all, it was a quite remarkable year.