INDIANAPOLIS — LSU’s Joe Burrow just had one of the best seasons in college football history.
His 60 passing touchdowns were the most ever for a single season. His 5,671 passing yards were an all-time single-season SEC record. And his 1,035 total yards, as well as his 463 passing yards, in the title game were both College Football Playoff records.
You're damn right he was going to be confident about it.
Confidence is polarizing. It's good; I would even say it's necessary. So when you wear a "BDJ" hat after winning the national championship, when you're puffing a cigar in the waiting room for interviews, when you're clapping back at people on social media, you draw eyes, and not always the ones that enjoy seeing it. Any time you're pounding your chest, warranted or not, there's a chance you could rub people the wrong way.
Screw 'em, right?
Well, it's not that easy, especially since everything you do during the draft process — a time referenced as a three-month-long job interview — is often under the microscope or overblown.
All teams like confidence. It's the arrogance that they avoid. Burrow was never humbled in 2019. His team was undefeated at the top of the mountain when it was all said and done, and he was recognized as the best player in the country on the way there.
But there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. For Burrow, his outward confidence doesn't come from a sense of entitlement or natural superiority; it comes from preparation.
"The thing about the confidence, I think it starts in preparation and I’m really confident in my preparation," Burrow said Tuesday at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. "I feel I prepare better than anybody else. That’s why I’m so confident. Because I feel I know what’s going to be happening on Saturdays before it happens. Hopefully, I can carry it over to Sundays with the help of the coaches and the veterans. That’s where it starts."
Alongside offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and pass game coordinator Joe Brady, Burrow led an offense that could not even be contained, let alone stopped.
With as outgoing as Burrow has become this season, the parallel to him and Baker Mayfield has naturally made its way into common draft conversations. Mayfield was another player whose confidence rubbed some people the wrong way. Most loved it when things were great, such as his final year at Oklahoma and even into his rookie season in the NFL. But there are plenty who are now turned off by Mayfield's presence and personality after a down second season in 2019.
When it came to the Baker-confidence comparisons, Burrow wasn't shy at all in pointing out that's part of what made Baker the first-overall pick two years ago.
"I really admire Baker’s mentality," Burrow said. "Coming in if you’re the No. 1 pick, the team that’s picking No. 1 is there for a reason so there are going to be ups and downs and you have to stay steady through the process."
But Burrow didn't come up with the Mayfield comparison himself. He would tell you he'd like to be compared to a different quarterback for a different reason.
When asked about whether he's had this kind of confidence all along, Burrow noted that he has, and that's because of the lessons of preparation he learned from his former Ohio State teammate J.T. Barrett.
"[The confidence] was there last year," Burrow said. "I just didn’t have the platform and nobody saw it because I wasn’t playing as well. I was still preparing that way. I still had that confidence. That’s something I learned from Barrett, who was at Ohio State. He prepared better than anybody I’ve ever been around and was super-confident as a result of it."
Burrow talks a big game, and in 2019 he backed every word of it up. Right now his confidence is shining more than it ever has, even if it's always been there. When it comes to the NFL, Burrow sees the root of his confidence — his preparation — as the main aspect of his game that separates him from any other quarterback in this class.
"I do think it's my mental capacity in the game," Burrow said. "Like I said earlier, I prepare better than anybody else. My physical traits are limited compared to some of the guys here and everyone can see it. So, I've got to be smarter, I've got to prepare better and I've got to know what's happening before it happens so I can play fast."
Confidence is necessary. But where it is rooted matters. Burrow may not seem humble on the outside, but how he gets his confidence comes from humble roots. It comes from those times in the film room when no one's watching, from moments in the weight room when it's empty and with reps on the practice field when the sun either hasn't come up yet or has already set.
That's what matters most.
That's confidence to covet.