A construction side on Court Street spells out the City of Athens' support for Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on Feb. 10, 2022, in the approaching Super Bowl this Sunday.

A construction side on Court Street spells out the City of Athens' support for Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on Feb. 10, 2022, in the approaching Super Bowl this Sunday.

February 11, 2022

Bring on Burrow

Joe Burrow's Super Bowl appearance brings excitement to Athens businesses, residents

By Alex Imwalle | For The Post

During halftime of an Athens High School basketball game, the student section, crowding around a cardboard cutout of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, erupted while jumping and repeatedly chanting “Joey!”

Across Court Street, local businesses display their Bengals signs, posters and jerseys in their front windows. Burrow has led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance in over 30 years, and few places could be prouder than his hometown of Athens, Ohio.

Abby Cornwell, a senior at Athens High School, said she and her classmates wanted to find a way to support Burrow come Super Bowl Sunday since he is an Athens Native and Bulldog alumnus.

The students took a video, featuring Abby Cornwell’s Burrow cutout, during the Senior Night basketball game of them cheering him along. Through some Athens connections, the video will be sent to Burrow as inspiration during halftime of the upcoming Super Bowl.

@bljworth Go get that ring Joey! Your hometown is so proud of you!#joeburrow #athensohio #athensbulldogs #joeburr #superbowl #cincinnatibengals #bengalsfootball ♬ original sound - Brooklyn Stallworth

“It’s really cool seeing all the support he gets from the school,” Abby Cornwell said “Seeing him play basketball and football and growing up and now seeing him in the NFL … everyone here is really excited about it.”

She said she has always been a Bengals fan, and seeing someone from her hometown accomplish so much in his young career is a great feeling.

“(The Bengals) just going to the Super Bowl is cool,” Abby Cornwell said. “Then seeing Joe as the most popular guy on the team makes it even more special.”

A similar level of support and excitement for Burrow and the Bengals has been shown all around Athens County. Bagel Street Deli, an Athens staple, will be serving Cincinnati style chili the entire week leading up to the Super Bowl to support the Bengals by paying homage to a Cincinnati staple, Megan McElligott Meyer, co-owner of Bagel Street, said.

Additionally, McElligott Meyer said Bagel Street will be running their “Pride of Ohio” $9 meal deal, nine being Burrow’s football number. A dollar from each meal will be donated to the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund, which raises money for the Athens County Food Pantry.

“He has not forgotten about his Athens roots,” McElligott Meyer said in an email. “We applaud him using his platform to illuminate the real hunger insecurity that exists in this area.”

Alongside Bagel Street, both Career Connection and Kindred Market will be donating to the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund, Kristi Kinnard, general manager of Career Corrections and part-owner of Kindred Market, said.

Career Corrections will donate $1 for each passing yard Burrow throws during the game, and Kindred Market will donate 9% of its profits from any local product they sell during Super Bowl Weekend.

“I think one of the most impressive things about all of this is has been the inspiration that he's given all the kids in our community as the highlight on a real issue that we have in our region,” Kinnard said

Kinnard is a second generation Athens High School alumna, so both Career Connections and Kindred Market are family owned and deeply rooted within the Athens community, she said. Because of this, Kinnard said she feels connected to Burrow and his cause.

“I feel like he is just the neighborhood kid,” Kinnard said. “My kids are inspired by him and work a little extra harder at (football) practice and (are) excited about the future just because of what he's been able to accomplish.”

Bagel Street has also temporarily changed its name to “Bengals Street Deli” for the duration of the Bengals postseason, McElligott Meyer said. Though the original Bagel Street name will return after this Sunday, the establishment will always support Burrow and the Bengals.

McElligott Meyer added that she and her family are Bengals fans, and she is glad that Burrow ended up somewhere so close to home.

“We got incredibly lucky that the Bengals and Athens' own Joe Burrow merged two years ago,” McElligott Meyer said in an email.

David Cornwell, a Bengals fan and owner of Courtside Pizza, The J Bar and North End Kitchen and Bar, said he has seen a lot more business in all of his establishments during all of the Bengals playoff games. Despite the bars typically being known as Cleveland Browns bars, David Cornwell said they have filled up in support of the Bengals consistently throughout the postseason.

“It's always a big compliment to us when we see so many people, students, locals want to come in our places and watch events,” David Cornwell said.

He said Burrow has always been a big deal since his days in high school, and it has been enjoyable to watch him get more popular as his accomplishments grew.

“His notoriety has grown,” David Cornwell said. “(Students) really grasp that this is an Athens kid which is really, obviously, impressive.”

The walls of GiGi’s Country Kitchen have been covered with Burrow memorabilia, Travis Brand, the owner of GiGi’s, said. Though the restaurant only serves breakfast and lunch and is closed during the game, Brand said this only makes it easier for him and his employees to get home in time to watch the game.

As always, GiGi’s has multiple menu items named after Burrow, and Brand feels the establishment consistently has a lot of excitement surrounding him.

“We just kind of have become the unofficial spot to gather around and have the Joe Burrow talks,” Brand said.

Despite being a Bengals fan from Cincinnati, Brand said he values everything Burrow has done throughout his career, and that means so much more to him than where Burrow plays.

“I don’t care who he’s playing for or what he’s doing,” Brand said. “If he switches to tennis, I’ll become a tennis fan; we’re Joe Burrow fans here.”

Brand said supporting Burrow just comes naturally. A skilled athlete like him does not come often, let alone out of a small town like Athens, so it is easy to get behind his success, Brand added.

“It's a small town kid that grew up eating lunch and breakfast here and has made it big,” Brand said. “Every bit of (an) awesome athlete as he is, he's as great of a person off the field and he's just proven that time and time again.”

AUTHOR: Alex Imwalle
EDITOR: Kayla Bennett
COPY EDITOR: Anna Garnai
PHOTO: Nate Swanson