Jalen Hurts: QB1

15 February 2021 Opinion Philadelphia Eagles

With all the drama surrounding the Carson Wentz trade saga, one major thing has been lost in all of that. Barring any last-minute draft night shenanigans by Howie Roseman, Jalen Hurts will be the new starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the city of Philadelphia, this is something that people take very seriously. That is our heartbeat, that is our leader. No matter what has happened throughout the week, we all huddle around our TV’s or our tailgates on Sunday and tune in to cheer our Birds on the road to victory. So lets take a deeper look into who Jalen Hurts really is as a person and a player.

Jalen Alexander Hurts is a 22-year-old quarterback hailing from Channelview, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where he spent his formative years playing football for his father, Averion Hurts. Although his football accolades are a laundry list of All-District and District MVP’s, Hurts also enjoyed competing in powerlifting. In fact, by his sophomore year, Hurts was squatting over 500 pounds and became a Regional Finalist at the 198 lbs division. Although his powerlifting career never took off, Jalen still does it recreationally and enjoys doing so, in addition to leading our Birds. While Jalen was just as much of an athletic freak he has said that his brother, Averion Jr., has been his football idol his whole life. In the 2016 season, Averion threw for 1,857 yards and 12 touchdowns, while little brother Jalen threw for over 900 more yards in route to a handful of SEC awards.

His football career was a different story from his powerlifting though. After Kyler Murray departed for Oklahoma, Texas A&M made a late push for the five-star recruit to join their program and attempt to regain their former glory. However, their efforts would ultimately fail as Lane Kiffin gave Jalen the opportunity to come to an already winning program and have a real shot at winning a national championship, along with various other individual awards along the way.

As a true freshman at Alabama in 2016, Hurts competed to open the season as the starting quarterback. Blake Barnett started the first game against the USC Trojans, but by the second game, Hurts had taken over the starting role, becoming the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Alabama in 32 years (Vince Sutton in 1984 was the last). Hurts produced a historic freshman season under head coach Nick Saban. He threw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns with nine interceptions. His completion percentage was at 62.8 percent, and he finished the season with a quarterback rating of 139.12. He rushed for a total of 954 yards and 13 touchdowns, breaking the school single season record for rushing yards by a quarterback, surpassing Steadman Shealy’s previous record of 791 yards. Jalen led his team to win the 2016 SEC Championship over the Florida Gators and was subsequently named SEC Offensive Player of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year, and received Freshman All-American from several publications.

By his sophomore season, Jalen was poised to take his game to the next level. Hurts led the Tide to a 13–1 season, giving them a playoff spot as a #4 seed, where they played Clemson in the 2018 Sugar Bowl. Hurts was the offensive MVP in that game in a 24–6 win over the Tigers. Hurts was benched at halftime of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship for true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, which led to some concerns regarding whether he should continue to play for the Crimson Tide as a backup or pursue opportunities elsewhere in College Football. Ultimately, Hurts chose to stick with the Crimson Tide and compete for the starting job, a job that he ultimately lost, for his junior season.

As a junior, Hurts came in as a relief artist for Tua Tagovailoa on several occasions but didn’t make a major impact on the season until the 2018 SEC Championship game against the rival Georgia Bulldogs. Down 28-14 at one point, Tua delivered a dime pass to Jerry Jeudy to bring the score to within a single score. On the very next drive, Tua was injured and Jalen took relief with 5:41 left in the game. After a Josh Jacobs run tied the game, Hurts scrambled for a 15-yard touchdown that led the Crimson Tide to a victory and ensured that Jalen would have multiple offers in the offseason to start for another program.

On January 16, 2019, Hurts announced via social media that he would be transferring to the University of Oklahoma for his final year of eligibility. As a graduate transfer, he was eligible to play for the 2019 season. In his first game as a Sooner, Hurts shattered Oklahoma’s single-game yardage record, previously held by Baker Mayfield, in a debut game putting up 508 yards of total offense against Houston. Hurts helped lead Oklahoma to a Big 12 Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff with a record of 12-1, with the only setback coming in a 48-41 loss to Kansas State in which he totaled over 500 yards of total offense. Ultimately, his lone season as a Sooner ended in a 63-28 blowout loss to the LSU Tigers in the 2019 Peach Bowl, in route to LSU’s National Championship run. Hurts finished the season with 3,851 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, and eight interceptions to go along with 1,298 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in route to a second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. Following his graduate transfer season with Oklahoma, Jalen opted to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft.

“With the 53rd overall selection in 2020 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select, Jalen Hurts, quarterback, Oklahoma.” It may have been ruined with a lot of turmoil and frustration at first, but Jalen did exactly what he was supposed to do as a developmental quarterback. He listened, he learned, he cheered on his teammates and he stepped up when his number was called. In four games in a tumultuous 2020 season, Hurts led the Eagles to a 1-3 record as a starter, while passing for 1,061 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, adding 320 yards rushing and a touchdown. All of these stats are a fantastic story of resurgence, character and overcoming adversity in itself, but what we don’t get to see is who Jalen Hurts is off the field.

I’m sure most fans have heard the story of Jalen and six-year old Alexander August, whose mother tweeted a picture of her son’s backpack with the words “Jalen Hurts #2” woven into the fabric. To which Jalen responded with a backpack of his own with Alexander’s name sewn between the stitches. Alexander’s mother was awe-struck when the six-year old boy said that Jalen was his favorite player, and had an impossible time trying to find a Jalen Hurts backpack for school. She then enlisted the help of her mother, Alexander’s grandmother, to inscribe the child’s request. However, it’s not the backpack that meant the most, it was Jalen’s response that echoed across social media. “Now to have the same platform in a sense and to be able to touch so many people, I try to take advantage of every opportunity I can. It’s a blessing. That means the world to me,” Hurts said to the Eagles’ website. “That’s what it’s all about – giving back, showing love, and helping others. That’s what it comes down to. That’s the rent we pay to live on this earth.”

Not only this small gesture of appreciation for the support of a young fan, Jalen took to the “My Cleats, My Cause” NFL program to help promote the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Alex’s Lemonade Stand focuses on childhood cancer. It grew from the efforts of a girl who held a fundraiser in her front yard at 4 years old. By the time cancer took the life of Alex Scott four years later in 2004, her efforts had raised more than $1 million and launched a legacy that has endured via Alex’s Lemonade Stand. This is whenever Jalen heard about a family with six children in Nottingham, Pennsylvania, whose eldest had been diagnosed with cancer. Jalen felt this families need and immediately leapt into action. Hurts went to meet the youngster – and he brought a $30,000 check to help the family get a new home, too. “The fun things I’ll remember from this day is, obviously, the reaction,” Hurts said, “but just spending time with Erick and his siblings, throwing the ball, playing catch outside, signing his jersey, signing the ball. He gave me a nice picture. He took time out of his day to draw me a picture. I really appreciate that. I’m going to hang that up in my locker as soon as I get back. I’m happy they’re happy. I’m praying for nothing but positivity and sending them nothing but blessings moving forward, so it was a good day. Today was a great day.”

So as much as the statistics and accolades may be what will define Jalen Hurts as a quarterback, his efforts off the field, his character, his mental fortitude and careless efforts are what will define the man, Jalen Alexander Hurts.

On behalf of the fan base, we apologize for the inconvenient circumstances to your arrival and ascension to QB1, Jalen. We wish you nothing but success on your quest to bring this city another Lombardi Trophy and parade down Broad Street.