While accepting his prestigious honor on Saturday, the quarterback, 23, used his time onstage to spotlight those in need, sharing with the audience that many in his hometown of Athens, Ohio, remain in poverty.
“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average,” Burrow said in his speech. “There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot.”
He added: “And I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too.”
Little did Burrow know at the time that his remarks would inspire a major benefit for his hometown. After Athens resident Will Drabold started a fundraiser for a local food pantry, more than $465,000 has been raised.
To thank Burrow for the shout-out, the Athens City School Board announced on Thursday that it will take steps to rename its high school football stadium after Burrow, who graduated from the school in 2015.
“When Joe Burrow was on the national stage giving his speech after receiving the Heisman, he chose not to speak about himself and his success but rather about our community and the challenges we face,” said board member Sean Parsons in a statement, sharing the unanimous decision.
The win for Burrow, who also played at Ohio State University, marked the first Heisman Trophy for Louisiana State University since 1959.
On Sunday, Drabold shared Burrow’s sentiments with the creation of a Facebook fundraiser aimed to benefit the Athens County Food Pantry.
“Let’s answer Joey’s call to action by supporting a local nonprofit that serves food to more than 5,000 households in Athens County each year,” Drabold wrote on the fundraising page.
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The food pantry, which served over 400 families last month, responded on social media to the generous flood of support, which Drabold reposted to the donation page.
“For the fundraisers inspired by Joe Burrow, we are simply overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people!” read the statement. “Our board will be having in-depth conversations about the best ways to use these funds. This is very new to us. We have never received an outpouring of financial support of this magnitude.”
The statement continued: “We seek to be careful and deliberate in making these decisions, as the opportunities to further address food insecurity and hunger are numerous and the possibilities are nearly endless.”
Drabold also shared on the fundraiser page that his wife, who is a special education teacher at Burrow’s former elementary school, has already noticed the impact that the football player’s words have had on the students.
He wrote: “Joey inspired a generation of children in Appalachian Ohio. Some of these kids don’t get toys for Christmas. Some get their food from the food pantry. You cannot beat the power of role models and inspiration in their lives. None of these kids, who are in the same classrooms Joey was, will ever forget this.”