Jalen Hurts wasted no time putting his degree in public relations to work. Soon after graduating from Alabama — ahead of schedule, by the way — Hurts announced that he is transferring to Oklahoma for his last year of eligibility, and then penned a most eloquent letter to Crimson Tide and sooner fans.
It was published by The Players Tribune and surely by now you have read it. If not, do yourself a favor and give it a read. These are some of the points that resonated.
“I understand that God put those obstacles and challenges in my life for a reason. He wanted me to feel the pain I felt for a reason. He wanted me to understand the importance of never losing faith — and of always staying true to myself. He had NOT brought me this far just to leave me there.”
Agree or disagree with the theological accuracy of that view. What’s inarguable is the character, wisdom and maturity of Hurts, whom, by the way, will not turn 21 until three weeks before his first game against Houston.
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“’This isn’t something you’re stuck in,’ I’d tell myself. ‘This is something you’re going through.’ And one thing I can promise you is that I’m better off for having gone through it. Everything I dealt with at Bama: I’m stronger for it. I’m wiser. I’m a better man.”
No bitter feelings about losing his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa at halftime of the 2018 national championship game against Georgia. Not a trace of resentment toward anyone in Tuscaloosa.
Instead, he talked about the life lessons he learned in his three years in Tuscaloosa.
Lessons in patience.
Lessons in humility.
Lessons in unselfishness.
That’s not to suggest that he arrived in Tuscaloosa lacking these qualities. But let’s be real. He was 17 years old when he arrived on campus and donned a No. 4 jersey as the scout team’s impersonator of Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. He was recruited by pretty much every school that thought it had a chance to sign him.
One year later, he would come within one defensive stop of defeating Watson and the Tigers in the national championship game. Yeah, we tend to forget that Hurts would have won a national championship as the starter and finisher if he hadn’t been matched up against one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time.
Hurts could have transferred last August, when it became clear that Tagovailoa would win the starting job. By rule, he would have been forced to sit out a year before playing. But with the NCAA realizing it’s probably one class action lawsuit away from having that archaic rule overturned, it’s getting easier for players to be granted a hardship and be allowed to play right away.
Even Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban himself seemed unsure what Hurts would do when asked at SEC Football Media Days last July if he thought Hurts would be on the roster when Alabama opened the season against Louisville.
Or, as former Alabama quarterback and now analyst Greg McElroy suggested at the time, Hurts could have gone to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and asked to limit his playing time to four games so he would not burn a year of eligibility by playing the fourth quarter of 50-7 blowouts.
Or he could have asked to change positions, as many NFL analysts think he might have to do any way.
But Hurts stuck around, kept competing with Tagovailoa every day in practice, contributing in quarterback meetings and preparing as if he were one play away from becoming the Tide’s quarterback again. And that’s exactly what happened when Tagovailoa left the SEC Championship Game against Georgia with a badly sprained ankle. The same field — Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta — against the same team where he had lost his starting job.
Hurts made plays that he had not made the first time against the Bulldogs. He got my vote as the game’s MVP.
Hurts wants to play quarterback, presumably in the NFL. It’s easy for others to dismiss his chances. So what if doesn’t make it? It’s his career and his life.
“So to my about-to-be family in Norman, I truly appreciate you for bringing me on board. Y’all don’t know me yet. But just for now, to introduce myself: I’m a motivated coach’s son from the Eastside of Houston, and I love to play ball.”
Here’s something else Sooner fans will learn: Hurts will give you everything he has. The kid’s a winner.