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Back In Ohio, Newest Bengal Tarell Basham Rejuvenated By Old Friends

Tennessee Titans linebacker Tarell Basham (57) rushes during their NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Tennessee Titans linebacker Tarell Basham (57) rushes during their NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

After reaching out to welcome him and tell the newest Bengal he was no longer "Coach Burrow," but "Joe's Dad," Tarell Basham's old defensive coordinator at Ohio University wondered if he should contact him again.

"I may have to text him not to hit the quarterback," joked Jimmy Burrow after Basham signed his deal Wednesday. "He's a high-energy guy who goes real hard in practice. He's got a high motor and loves to play."

Before he was the father of Bengals franchise quarterback Joe Burrow, Jimmy was the long-time boss of the Bobcats defense who sent the school's two highest draft picks of the last 50 years to the NFL in Basham and the old Bengals nemesis from across the bridges in Fort Thomas, Ky., and Pittsburgh in Mike Mitchell.

Mitchell, a safety, went to the Steelers in the second round of 2009. The 6-4, 265-pound Basham went to the Colts in the 2017 third round and now on his fifth team he feels at home in the state and in the scheme.

"Call me 'Bash,'" says the gregarious Basham, who turned 29 last month and has now barged into one of the NFL's most productive pass rushes.

"It was a chance for me to get back to Ohio. I feel like it's my roots playing football at Ohio University. It's where I came alive. It's where I showcased my talents, which is how I got in the league in the first place. I was playing good old-fashioned Ohio football. It's a state known for that."

After being named the Mid-American Conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 with 11.5 sacks for Jimmy Burrow, the NFL has been a sojourn for Basham. But he's made a name for himself as a solid rotational pass rusher. With 18 starts and 11 sacks in 82 games, Basham offers seasoned speed edge off the edge.

An aspiring actor taking classes in his offseason home of Atlanta, Basham has found a nice speaking role backing up Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson and complementing youngsters Joseph Ossai and Jeff Gunter.

But first he was Jimmy Burrow's leading man off-Broadway. Burrow ran a 4-3 in Athens, but he used Basham a lot like Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo uses his edgers and he molded what was then a first-day draft pick out of anonymity with the help of defensive line coach Jessie Williams. Burrow never blinked, say, blitzing from the field and dropping Basham to cover the flat. When Basham put what he learned on display at that Senior Bowl seven years ago, he was on his way to the 80th pick.

"He can stand up and drop. I compare it to the way Sam Hubbard sometimes stands up," Jimmy Burrow said. "They drop him and rush him, When he first came out, some people thought he could be a linebacker. But in the NFL, he's a defensive end one way or the other. He can really run and has a good feel for the game.

"He's long and very athletic. He can really rush the passer. It's a really good fit whether it's giving those guys a breather or putting speed on the field."

Joe Burrow seems to think so. The training room alerted him a few weeks ago that Basham had been in for a free-agent visit and that got the old OU fan pumped.

Check out the best photos of DE Tarell Basham from his career so far.

"I know Joe was excited," Jimmy said. "He watched Tarell play. He knows what he can do."

They ran into each other in the Bengals locker room Wednesday and after a hug each left each shaking their heads about what a small world it is. What better way to be greeted back in-state than to hear the old Ohio Mr. Football who went away to win the Heisman Trophy and came back to go to a Super Bowl offer a hearty "My Guy!"

"I remember Joe playing high school and then he just blew it up. Look at him," Basham said. "Coach Burrow let me play. He was very aggressive. Not too conservative. I was never a good attack and react. I like to attack and make the other guy react. Not react off the other guy. He just let us go."

Basham says he didn't even talk to anyone with the team before he signed. He knew about the Bengals, but the big thing for him is the area.


"I have so many friends that work out here in the community. I talked to more of them than the people involved with the team," Basham said. "I feel like when it comes to NFL football, I know what to expect. They expect you to come in and be a pro. I can do all of those things. But I have true fans from way back when I first started playing collegiate football that are still out there and wanted to be able to come to my games. I felt like it was a great move."

This could be the start of something big. He has post-career plans. Maybe comedy.

"I'm good at being a character. Playing a role," Basham said. "I'm good at throwing my voice and doing personalities."

Jimmy Burrow confirms this guy is type-cast as a solid locker room character.

"I'm a good energy guy in the locker room. Guys feed off my energy. Even when I'm having a bad day," Basham said. "I've got a four-year-old daughter going on 40, so I've got energy all day. And structure."

He's also got some familiar faces around him now.

"There's nothing like playing football in Ohio," Basham said. "Ohio football has a feel to it. I'm happy to be playing back in Ohio."


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