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Before leading the Bengals to a rare Super Bowl appearance (their first in 33 years) last February, Joe Burrow wasn’t sure he would make it as a professional quarterback. Unable to carve out a role at Ohio State, where he spent two years supporting JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins, Burrow never stopped chasing his dream. But he had his doubts, preparing for a career in investment banking if football didn’t work out. And it almost didn’t.

“I was doing the same job that I’ve always done and I wasn’t playing,” Burrow told NBC Sports’ Chris Simms. “Of course, there was self-doubt at that time. I mean, when you don’t pay for three years, and you work and you feel like you’re training really well and you feel like you can go out there and play games and do what you’ve always done done but you don’t have the opportunity to show what you can do, it’s frustrating.

Burrow was finally rewarded for his determination, resurfacing at LSU and enjoying what many would consider the greatest statistical season in NCAA history in 2019. A year later, Burrow encountered another setback, tearing his 10 ACL games in his rookie season. The Heisman winner would take homecoming Player of the Year honors in 2021, ending the Bengals’ playoff drought – a humiliating drought dating back to 1990 – with victories over Las Vegas, Tennessee and Kansas City en route to Super Bowl LVI.

“There were times when I started updating my resume, thinking about being an investment banker,” Burrow said. “Fortunately, the work I put in over those three years really paid off.”

Despite losing the Super Bowl by just one basket, the Bengals come into the year like long shots, with worse title odds (+2200 on DraftKings) than 10 teams including five in their own conference (Buffalo, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Denver and Cleveland).

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