© Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Joe Burrow is from Athens, a working-class city located in Southeast Ohio. Burrow has a great deal of pride in his hometown, which is where he watched the 2020 draft when he was named the No. 1 overall pick. 

That pride is one of the reasons why Burrow has teamed up with LevelUp GRIT Ohio, a nonprofit whose goal is to help get local workers into high-growth, in-demand jobs. According to Burrow, the program "brings local employers, career coaches and training providers together to help displaced workers get back to better work as quickly as possible."

"The people in my hometown are really second to none," Burrow said. "There's the hardest-working people in the country there. … The people there have what it takes to take the next level in all their lives.

"I'm excited to see these new opportunities for people in Ohio that might not have had those opportunities in the past, because there's a world of opportunities waiting for them." 

The GRIT Project is working toward building a "high-demand workforce and stimulate economic growth through public and private partnerships." The program, which includes both students as well as adults, begins with a career assessment and a one-on-one coaching session with a career specialist. From there, a plan is put in place. 

"You can only go so far on your own," Burrow said. "You can take steps on your own, but you can't jump levels without a great team around you." 

Burrow said his work ethic is one of the main reasons for his success. After a prolific prep career at Athens High School, Burrow threw less than 40 passes in three years at Ohio State. Upon receiving his degree, Burrow transferred to LSU, where in 2019 he led the Tigers to an undefeated season and a national championship. 

Burrow has continued to have success at the next level. After missing the second half of his rookie season with a knee injury, Burrow led the Bengals to a 5-2 start this season. And after two straight losses to the Jets and Browns, Burrow is hoping to get Cincinnati back in the winner's column with a victory on Sunday against the Raiders, another 5-4 team that is coming off of consecutive losses. 

While it has not always been easy, Burrow has realized his childhood dreams of being an NFL starting quarterback. Through his work with LevelUp, he hopes that his fellow Ohioans can realize their own career aspirations. 

"One thing about training is that you have to get out of your comfort zone in order to grow," Burrow said. "You just have to keep your nose to the grindstone. Deep down, you know if you're putting in the work that you need to, things will work out."