Former Ohio State Linebacker Joe Burger, Planning To Attend Medical School, Learns About Leadership At Campbell Trophy Summit

By Dan Hope on August 30, 2018 at 4:10 pm
Joe Burger

Joe Burger was named as a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, an award that honors college football’s best scholar-athlete, during his senior season at Ohio State.

While Burger didn’t ultimately win the award, he’s still reaping the rewards just for being nominated.

Burger, who played linebacker for the Buckeyes from 2012-16, attended the National Football Foundation’s Campbell Trophy Summit last week at Stanford University, where he and other previous Campbell Trophy nominees had the opportunity to interact and learn from entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley CEOs about leadership and how they have achieved success.

“It was a really cool experience,” said Burger, who also attended the inaugural summit in 2017, in an interview with Eleven Warriors after attending last week’s summit. “Just getting to hear the minds of some of the people that have really helped to shape Silicon Valley for the last 20 years, and kind of seeing what’s underneath the skin and what makes them tick, that was really unique. And not only the speakers, but also the other former players that were on the trip, really had a good experience just talking with them and kind of exchanging thoughts. Everyone’s got different experiences in terms of their football lives, but everyone’s also been successful academically and athletically, and they have different motivational tactics that their program used, and it was just a really, really cool week.”

The Campbell Trophy Summit was launched last year in honor of Bill Campbell – the award’s namesake – who played and coached at Columbia before becoming an influential figure in the business world, serving as the CEO of Intuit (who sponsors the summit) and as a board member of Apple and Google.

Mark Flynn, a former linebacker at Saint John’s (Minn.) University who is now a senior advisor at GSV Asset Management, organized the summit.

“Bill inspired a number of us, and all he ever asked was that we passed on, from one generation to the next, his values,” Flynn said in a National Football Foundation release. “We decided to gather really bright, talented people who have been part of this Campbell Trophy, saying let’s gather for three or four days to develop tomorrow’s leaders.”

In addition to CEOs from several large corporations – including Intuit and Chegg – speakers at this year’s summit also included several former NFL players, including Ronnie Lott, Steve Young and Charlie Batch.

One speaker whose message resonated with Burger was Liz Wiseman, the author of the New York Times bestseller “Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter,” who shared a leadership concept that Burger hopes to apply to his daily life.

“The way that she teaches her leadership, and thinking about the role of a leader in terms of ‘Are they a multiplier? Are they making people around them better? Do they give increased expectations around them?’ vs. ‘Are they a diminisher? Do they take your talents and abilities and not let you fully explore them?’” Burger recalled. “And I think that’s something that makes you self-reflect and think about how you treat others. And not that I’m in a leadership position right now. But as you work with other people, how do you give them the ability to get more out of themselves and exceed their potential, rather than diminish it and don’t let them grow.”

Since finishing his college football career two years ago, Burger – a five-time Ohio State scholar-athlete who began his career as a walk-on and finished it as a captain – has set his sights on attending medical school. After graduating from Ohio State with a degree in industrial and systems engineering, Burger took part-time classes at the University of Cincinnati in order to complete the prerequisites for medical school, while he also works as an intern at the Good Samaritan Free Health Center in Cincinnati.

As Burger has started his pursuit of a career in medicine, he said he has found that the lessons he learned from playing football at Ohio State have translated to life after football, as well.

“Specifically talking in terms of leadership and motivational style, I think that’s one of my biggest recognitions of the blessings that I’ve had going through the Ohio State program with (former linebackers coach Luke) Fickell and (head coach Urban) Meyer. You think about how much that they kind of impacted and determined your leadership style, and I think that’s been the most powerful thing is learning how to take those, and now apply them to the next step of your life as you begin to transition into a more real world environment.”

Joe Burger
Joe Burger played linebacker for Ohio State from 2012-16. 

Burger doesn’t yet know exactly what career path he wants to follow within the field of medicine, and he recognizes that he has a long way to go in order to achieve his career goals. But he says he experiences playing for the Buckeyes, as well as having the opportunity to attend the Campbell Trophy Summit, have given him confidence that he will be successful if he puts in the work.

“Coach Fickell used to always say, ‘Discomfort brings growth,’” Burger said. “You often feel like you’re a football player, you can walk into like a business environment – I did, at least – and you feel like underqualified. You feel like you don’t have the skills necessary. But (Wiseman) said, ‘Who wants a job that they’re qualified for?’ And I think that really speaks to the whole perspective, like ‘Hey, I’m not going to know the skills. I’m not going to know what this job has to do. But I’m a quick learner, I’m a grinder, I’m going to do what I can do to get to that level in a quick amount of time.’   

“You’re going to be a rookie when you walk into the business world, but there’s a lot of core principles that don’t leave you,” Burger said. “So you just have to go after it, and be willing to be uncomfortable.”

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