He beat Joe to Paul Brown Stadium. Several years ago he was there for one of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis’ coaching clinics and it was one of those seasons he attended a spring practice. When Lewis invited the OU coaches to stay for lunch he ate with Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, a guy that had coached at Washington State when Burrow was just starting his career.
He shares his college with Bengals head coach Zac Taylor (Nebraska) and like Taylor’s father Sherwood at Oklahoma, he was a Big Eight safety in the ’70s before getting into coaching, a venture both put family first before the moving vans.
But before that the Packers took the 5-11, 181-pound Burrow in the eighth round in the 1976 draft. Bart Starr was the head coach and his secondary coach was a former NFL cornerback coaching DBs for the first time.
Charles Richard LeBeau, a future Hall-of-Famer who had spent the previous three seasons breaking into coaching running the Eagles special teams and a future Bengals head coach who would spend most of his coaching career in Cincinnati.
“He was one of the younger coaches on that staff and he became one of the greatest coaches in the NFL,” Burrow says. “I’ve always been proud of the fact he was involved in drafting me. He’s certainly somebody I respected for many years.”
Burrow says he has pulled up the rosters from Sept. 26, 1976 from time to time to refresh the memory. Packers vs. Bengals at Riverfront Stadium. And he admits he doesn’t remember much except that he got together the night before the game with one of his friends from Nebraska, Bengals running back Tony Davis.
“I think they had Boobie Clark. Archie Griffin was there, right? I think Ken Anderson was still the quarterback,” Burrow says. “I was a special teams player. I don’t even know if we won. I think we lost. That’s a long time ago.”
But that’s pretty good. Griffin had a touchdown while rushing 20 times for 78 yards. Boobie added 39 yards on seven carries. Anderson threw a touchdown and no picks while the Packers’ Lynn Dickey had no touchdowns and one of his two interceptions was Bengals cornerback Ken Riley’s pick-six.
The next week Burrow was in Canada, starting a five-year run that saw him win a Grey Cup and make the all-star team twice. But that obscure September NFL game in Riverfront 43 years ago may suddenly have a very big asterisk in Bengals history.
“I guess you’d say my first NFL game was against the Bengals and my last one was in Cincinnati,” says Jim Burrow, driving back into Ohio in what may be a full circle. “Let’s see what happens.”