Joe Mixon leads a group of young Bengals ready to shine in the Super Bowl

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who is in his fifth season in the NFL, is 25. And yet he is the veteran of a group that includes the likes of Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and others. Together, they look to continue to exceed expectations and take down the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, which takes place at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Joe Mixon entered the NFL during the Bengals’ rebuilding years

In Mixon’s first four seasons (starting in 2017) with the Bengals, the team was 19-44. Their closest season to a win was Mixon’s rookie year when Cincinnati was 7-9. In subsequent years, the team saw 6-10, 2-14, and 4-11-1 finishes. Now, after finishing the regular season 10-7, they have exceeded the expectations placed on them from outside their locker room.

“A lot of people said we wouldn’t make it through the first round,” Mixon said at a press conference earlier Monday. “Then they said we wouldn’t go past Tennessee [in the Divisional Round]. Then we weren’t gonna walk into Arrowhead Stadium and win [against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship]. And now here we are in this situation heading to the Super Bowl. The greater the moment, the more we rise to the occasion. I can’t wait to go out there on the biggest stage in front of millions and millions of fans there and watch TV.

For Mixon, being part of the Bengals during those years made this moment even more special.

“Wins are very, very hard to come by in the NFL. I stayed down for the come-up, and that feeling is unlike any other. I can’t explain it because I’m playing for the greatest thing of all – it doesn’t get any better than the Super Bowl.

Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins were instrumental in the Bengals’ success

Joe Burrow is in his second season in the NFL. Same for Tee Higgins. And it’s Year 1 for rookie sensation — and likely Offensive Rookie of the Year — Ja’Marr Chase. All three, according to Mixon, have been integral to the Bengals’ success this season.

But first it started in the locker room as a real culture fit for what head coach Zac Taylor and the rest of the organization were trying to build. And that’s where Mixon said it was most valuable to be one of the team’s veterans leading this group of young players.

“For me and guys like Tyler Boyd and CJ Uzomah – being here in the drought, and finally starting to reap the rewards of the tough times and coming here and being able to start winning and things like that. It’s enormous. And we have guys like Ja’Marr and Tee – they fit what we want to do and what we want to achieve… They see us as veterans. We have to show them how things work… I’m just trying to do everything I can to be a vocal leader and also showing them how I play on the court. I have to lead by example – these boys will be in the league for a long time, and I’m thrilled for the guys who came to this team to help us finish the job.

And how about Burrow, who took the league by storm in his rookie year before tearing his ACL just weeks into the 2020 NFL season?

“He had a big impact when he arrived. Even last year he was a warrior. He’s been through a lot. The first day he came together with us in 2020, we knew he would be something. something special and a leader. Compared to last year, it’s still night and day. He’s going to be one of the great quarterbacks, hopefully, for more than 15 years in this league.

Mixon is ready to seize the opportunity in front of him and the Bengals

Mixon played for the powerhouse Oklahoma Sooners for two seasons in 2015 and 2016 before declaring for the NFL Draft. There, the team went 22-4 combined under head coach Bob Stoops, winning the Sugar Bowl against Auburn in 2016.

Before entering the NFL, all Mixon knew was success. Going through the lean years in Cinncinati, Mixon isn’t taking this opportunity for granted.

“I’ve been a winner all my life. Growing up, I was very lucky with that. In times like this, no matter what you are going through, you should always be grateful for the opportunity given to you. I entered the years of reconstruction. Now that’s the start, that’s the norm for Cincinnati. We must do everything we can to seize the moment and the opportunity. Wins are hard to come by in the NFL. It’s all about process – we can’t take this game for granted.

A win for the city and the fans would mean a lot to the Cincinnati organization

Although fan is short for fanatic, there is no doubt that they play an important role in the history of a franchise and in the history of a team. For Bengals fans, they’ve been waiting for this moment for more than 30 years. Mixon and the rest of his teammates are well aware of how important a Super Bowl victory is to the city.

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“It’s a great moment to be in this position. This city has been waiting for this for more than 30 years. To me, that means everything. I know what it means for the city and what it means for the owner [Mike Brown]. I’m here to do everything I can to put us in the best position to win. We must continue to fight. »

Mixon knows how important a win would be for Bengals owner Mike Brown

Mike Brown has been with the Bengals organization since 1968, when he was assistant general manager. In 1991, he became owner and general manager. Prior to this year, he hadn’t had a playoff win since 1990. Home Alone had just made his debut, former Bengals players Andy Dalton and AJ Green were three and two years old respectively, and MC Hammer’s hit ” U Can’t Touch This” debuted. in January of this year.

So, playoff wins were something special for Brown this year. A Super Bowl appearance is even more special. But a victory? It would be one of the most fitting things for an owner who is a mainstay in everything the Bengals do.

“Me and Mike Brown are in touch every week. He comes and wants to show his love for his players,” Mixon said. “He wants to make sure his presence is felt through thick and thin. I’ve never seen his routine change. He’s in every step and every workout. He, his daughter, and his son are doing a great job supporting us. I know he can’t wait to get a ring. So that we are in this position and that we can contribute to it, we just want to make his dreams come true as well as ours. We will do everything in our power to make that happen.”