‘I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County [in Ohio] that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school.’

That’s Heisman Trophy–winning quarterback Joe Burrow of LSU, speaking from the dais, with perceptible emotion in his voice, about his home region of southeastern Ohio as he accepted college football’s top individual honor in New York earlier this month.

“It’s a very impoverished area,” he observed. Indeed, it has a reported child-poverty rate in excess of 30%.

Athens, Ohio–based writer Will Drabold, three years ahead of Burrow at Athens High School and touched by the LSU signal caller’s words, quickly tossed up a Facebook

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page to raise funds for the Athens County Food Pantry, noting that it feeds more than 5,000 households in Athens County each year. As of 5 p.m. Eastern time Friday, the page had drawn $488,394 in donations to the nonprofit organization, which, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, operates on an annual budget of about $80,000 and spends some 50 cents on each meal it serves to those in need.

Associated Press

Burrow scrambles during a November game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La.

“We are just overwhelmed with gratitude that so many people want to support the work that we’re doing in Athens County,” Karin Bright, the food pantry’s president, told National Public Radio.

Burrow began his collegiate career at Ohio State and transferred in 2018 to LSU, which he leads into a Saturday national semifinal against Oklahoma. Ohio State plays Clemson for the other slot in the NCAA title game.

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2019-12-28