'Everyone was crying': Fargo classmates of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow recall a kind, talented friend

When Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow walks on the field for the Super Bowl on Feb. 13, his best buddies and teachers from Centennial Elementary School in Fargo will be some of his biggest cheerleaders.

A photo frame with the word "buds" on it holds a picture of two smiling young boys.
Sam Hendricks, left, with his second grade friend Joe Burrow.
Contributed / Sam Hendricks
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FARGO — Joe Burrow went to first and second grade in Fargo in 2003 and 2004, when his dad coached at North Dakota State University. Burrow's classmates and teachers not only remember him for his athleticism but how he was a genuine, good friend.

"Him and I got along really well, quickly," said former classmate Sam Hendricks.

Hendricks still remembers Burrow on the playground at recess at Centennial Elementary School in south Fargo.

"He was always really good. He was always quarterback when we would all play," Hendricks said.

It wouldn't take long before the young Hendricks and Burrow were inseparable, best friends. Hendricks still has a picture of them together.


"I'd go over to his house, maybe every day or so, and we'd hang out, play ... I think it was PlayStation 2 back then," Hendricks recalled. "And we played backyard football and all that. I'd have dinner at his parents' house (and) sleepovers galore."

He still remembers the day Burrow moved away. It was rough for the two young friends.

"Because they (Burrow's parents) knew Joe and I were so close, they drove the moving truck to our house before leaving town, and so my dad says he will never forget Joe and I hugging and crying and saying we would miss each other. That was before cellphones," Hendricks said.

Others in Fargo played soccer with Burrow. Noah Morken was one of those players. A picture of the first graders shows Burrow and Morken on the team. Now, Morken and the rest of his Centennial school veterans are preparing to watch one of their own quarterback for a team in the Super Bowl.

"It's a strange feeling," Morken said. "With the photo that's gone out, people have been like, 'Oh, you were in class with Joe Burrow.' It's a cool feeling to have to be like, 'Yeah, I actually went to school with this kid who's a Super Bowl quarterback. It is a really cool feeling to have."

Burrow's second grade teacher Pam Carrier has fond memories of the Bengals quarterback.

"(He was) so kind," Carrier said. "It's not often you have a standout person being that kind, too."

She also remembers him as a little leader in second grade.


"He would let anybody play, but he would organize it," she recalled.

She remembers Harris and Burrows were two peas in a pod.

"I know Sam and Joe were like that," she said, crossing her fingers.

She remembers the day the Burrow family came into the class to say they were moving.

It was rough for everyone, she said. "Everybody was crying, and it was just like, 'No, we don't want him to move.'"

Weeks later, Carrier got something in the mail from the young Burrow.

"I've been looking and looking for that letter," she said.

Joe Burrow wrote a letter to Carrier saying he missed her and second grade in Fargo.


"(It) made me feel warm and happy," she said.

Now Burrow's class — and millions of others — will watch him play in the biggest football game of his life. Only a few of the fans know it all started here.

"Who'd have thought the kid I was playing Yu-Gi-Oh! cards with all those years ago is going to be a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl?" Hendricks said.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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