On April 14, 2018, Joe Burrow suited up in the Scarlet and Gray for the final time.
Then a fourth-year junior with two seasons of eligibility, Burrow was in a battle with Dwayne Haskins to replace long-time starter J.T. Barrett at quarterback. That battle started at the beginning of spring camp and was too close to call, with Tate Martell even getting a long look from the coaching staff.
"All three are close," then head coach Urban Meyer said on the Wednesday before the spring game. "There are times that you wish you’d have one guy separate, but then, it’s certainly not because of poor performance, it’s because of all three want the job. So, some decisions are going to have to be made. But right now, I can’t name a one. I can’t even name a three."
All eyes were on the trio going into the spring game, and Burrow objectively shined the brightest. The Athens, Ohio native was precise and decisive, completing 15-of-22 throws for 238 yards (game highs) and two touchdowns. Haskins was solid too, but he didn't move the offense as efficiently as Burrow that afternoon.
When spring camp closed, the coaching staff was leaning toward Haskins for the starting role. Feeling he could contribute and wanting a place to showcase that, Burrow announced his intentions to transfer to LSU midway through May.
It was the right decision for both Ohio State and Burrow.
Haskins proved he was the right choice for the Buckeyes in 2018 when he rewrote nearly every single-season passing record the Big Ten has to offer. In 14 starts, Haskins completed over 70 percent of his passes for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.
After earning MVP honors for helping Ohio State beat Washington in the Rose Bowl, Haskins announced his intentions to make an early jump to the NFL.
Meanwhile, Burrow was making a name for himself on his new team. He reported to the LSU campus for fall camp and entered yet another quarterback battle, this time against sophomore Myles Brennan and junior Justin McMillan.
That, too, was a close battle, but Burrow came out on top in the end.
And that's when Burrow's rise began. He helped LSU win 10 games while throwing for 2,894 yards to complement 23 total touchdowns. That was just the warmup to what he did this season, however.
Tigers coach Ed Orgeron hired Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints to overhaul LSU's passing attack, and Burrow has flourished in it. With one extremely notable game remaining in the season, he's thrown for an SEC record 55 touchdowns. And with a big game on Monday night, he could set the college football single-season records for touchdown passes and completion percentage.
It's simply one of the most historic, and potentially the most historic, seasons in college football history. He was rightfully awarded the Heisman Trophy last month, and committed much of his speech to his time at Ohio State. He called out the university several times, including Buckeyes strength coach Mickey Marotti, while labeling himself, "a kid from Ohio coming down to the Bayou."
The former Buckeye certainly hasn't forgotten his roots, and closed out his speech with this statement:
“When I lift this trophy again it’s for LSU, Ohio State, southeast Ohio and all of Louisiana.”
Ohio State fans certainly wanted to see their Buckeyes playing for the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night. Settling for the Tigers and watching Burrow go for the title isn't the worst alternative.