I have this image of a 10-year-old Jalen Hurts calmly walking down the stairs on Christmas morning, carefully opening a present and finding the big gift inside, you know, the one he really wanted.
Hurts cracks a little smile.
“Oh, cool,” he says looking at his parents. “Thanks, guys. Who wants some toast?”
It’s not that Hurts doesn’t show emotion; he does. But the 22-year-old is also guarded in public settings and just exudes a quiet confidence — a coolness — even with those who share the locker room with him.
Hurts is funny — goofy even, according to Miles Sanders — but he’s understated.
Hurts is a leader, but he’s not over-the-top.
Whenever you hear people talk about the rookie out of Oklahoma, they always say the same things: He’s poised, he’s cool, he’s calm and collected. He’s unflappable. There’s ice water in his veins.
A conversation between Doug Pederson and Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury was caught by NFL Films on Sunday as the two talked about the rookie before his second NFL start, mentioning that these NFL moments aren’t too big for him. Kingsbury, who recruited Hurts out of high school, said, “He doesn’t blink.”
“Gotta check his temperature sometimes to see if he’s even, like, got a pulse,” Pederson said. “I’m like, ‘Dude, fire up a little bit.’”
Sometimes Hurts does.
Hurts isn’t going to be a rah-rah leader all the time. The Eagles wouldn’t want him to be, because they don’t want him to be anything but himself.
But there are times where Pederson does see Hurts fire up just a bit.
“And you saw it -- I saw it last week in Arizona, he went up and down the bench, especially with the offensive guys, just talking to them, getting them going a little bit,” Pederson said. “And even the interactions I've had with him, he's energetic and gets a little fired up. And that's good to see.”
And Hurts is funny too. His teammates swear he is. Sanders said he and Hurts have very similar personalities. They’re laid back but “can be goofy at times.”
Those goofy times, however, are not before games.
“You can try to joke with him before the game, you ain’t going to get nothing,” Sanders said. “He’s locked in and focused. I like that. That’s just how he is. He’s just real competitive and locked in.”
Hurts also locks in at practice. Sanders said there are times where he’ll walk past Hurts during a practice and hear the rookie quarterback talking to himself, trying to figure out how he could have done something better. Sometimes, Hurts will blurt out a question to Sanders too.
And as laid back as Hurts is off the field, his teammates have all seen him flip the switch during games.
“He’s a whole different person whenever he’s on the field,” Greg Ward Jr. said. “He’s very competitive and I think that’s where it all comes from. He’s aggressive, he likes to take shots, he loves to play aggressive and that’s what you need and that’s what we ask for and that’s definitely what he’s given us.”
It seems like we can’t talk about Hurts these days without bringing up Carson Wentz. It’s important to note that just because Hurts has some qualities, it doesn’t mean Wentz is lacking them. But they do clearly have different personalities and personas. That’s OK.
Really, the Eagles just want Hurts to lead the team the way he naturally leads.
“I don't want them to hide behind anything or feel like they're inferior or they've got to sort of put up a persona that's not them,” Pederson said. “I just want them to be who they are. And it got them, the players, it got them to this level for a reason. And we don't want to put a blanket over it and kind of smother it. We want them to be free.”
Sometimes that means being goofy.
Sometimes that means being a rah-rah guy.
But more often than not, it means the version of Hurts that doesn’t get phased by anything. Not a blitzing linebacker. Not a quarterback controversy. Not even opening a present on Christmas morning.
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