From walk-on to captain, Joe Burger is leader for Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State senior linebacker Joe Burger is the type of player every coach wants to have on his team.

A hard-working player out of Cincinnati LaSalle High School, Burger walked onto the Buckeyes and red-shirted his true freshman season in 2012, and has since become a mainstay on special teams. Through his hard work and commitment to special teams, Burger was honored by being named a captain for the 2016 season, which gets underway against Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium Saturday.

“My number one thing has always has been how my peers view me,” Burger said. “The fact that they voted me captain is extremely humbling and I'm forever grateful for them.

“My name was on the sheet, but I really had no idea how the actual votes were going to turn out. When I heard Coach Meyer call my name, it was just one of those feelings you can't describe. I'm blessed to be around a great group of people every day.”

The son and brother of walk-ons at the University of Notre Dame, Burger followed his father Bob’s advice as it pertains to his approach on the football field and in the meeting rooms. And that has led to him becoming a Buckeyes captain and scholarship player.

“My dad always told me, ‘You got to bring your lunch pale and go to work every day,’” Burger said. “People like being around people that are generally happy, so every time I walk in here, I always have a smile on my face, no matter if it is 5 a.m. or 8 p.m.

“I'm at Ohio State. I'm at the best program in America. I'm playing in my home state and I am trying to make my family proud. My family instilled in me to appreciate the opportunities you have and just work every day to get to the goals that you want.”

During the 2015 season, Burger played in 13 consecutive games for the Buckeyes, and en route to earning his third varsity letter, he registered one of the biggest special-teams tackles of the season when he stopped Indiana’s punter for lost yardage on a fake attempt, which led to an Ohio State field goal in the 34-27 win over the Hoosiers.

“I can talk about him all day,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said earlier this week. “I think he should be a college football coach. I told him that. It's either that or med school for him or business. He'll be fine whatever he chooses.

“As good a guy as there is.”

And that is evidenced by the fact that after being named a captain for the Buckeyes, Burger has become even more committed to leading the special-teams units to success in 2016 as Ohio State works to get themselves back to the Big 10 Championship Game.

“You don't want it to change anything,” Burger said. “It is just a title. Whether you are a captain or not a captain, there are a lot of leadership opportunities out there. We need everybody in here, so if somebody is not doing their job, it doesn't always have to be me. Someone has got to grab them, pull them back and say, ‘Hey, we need you.’”


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