Jalen Hurts met with local reporters on Wednesday for the first time as the Eagles starting quarterback and he did so donning a Houston Astros hoodie and cap.
Hurts was quick to point out he now owns Phillies and Sixers jackets but on this day, he didn’t pander. The Houston native was rocking his hometown threads.
“Can’t forget where I come from,” Hurts said.
That’s the thing we’re already learning about Hurts. He’s going to be himself, the same guy he’s always been. Whether he’s the starter at Alabama, the backup at Alabama, the Heisman Trophy finalist at Oklahoma, the draft pick in Philly, the backup in Philly or the Eagles’ starter, Hurts is the same guy. Really, that’s one of his most endearing qualities.
Hurts, 22, is a consistent person.
“Obviously my role has changed this week,” Hurts said. “But the preparation and the hard work throughout the week has not. I’m carrying on the same mentality I’ve always had this year. Always being ready to answer the phone when it rings. It’s ringing and I’m ready to answer.”
On Sunday against the Saints, Hurts will become the youngest starting quarterback in modern Eagles history and he’ll be starting over franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, who struggled to the point of benching this season. The bigger story in all this is the downfall of Wentz, whom the Eagles designated as their franchise cornerstone and signed to a $128 million deal. His contract makes all this very messy and it has people wondering about the futures of Wentz, Doug Pederson and the entire franchise.
But Hurts can’t be worried about all that. He’s about to start his first NFL game and has to play the No. 1 defense in the league in a few days. Welcome to the NFL.
“They have a lot of great players. Fast, physical football team. They play really hard,” Hurts said. “We’re playing against a great defense and we need to do what we can to control the controllables. Control our effort. Control our execution. Control our mindset and go into it the right way and play a hard-fought game.”
The phrase “control what you can control” is one of the most overused phrases in professional sports for a reason. It’s a pretty good mantra. And it’s one that has served Hurts well. Hurts is the son of a football coach and has been known for his hard-working mentality. When things get tough, he works harder.
The best piece of advice Hurts has received this week is a piece of advice he’s been receiving for a while: Just be yourself. “Jalen Hurts is always enough,” he said.
And if anyone knows what Wentz is going through right now, it’s Hurts. After all, he was on the receiving end of one of the most public benchings we’ve ever seen. He was pulled for Tua Tagovailoa for the second half of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and then sat most of the next season behind Tua.
He handled that entire situation with incredible grace and won over folks across the country because of it.
“Perseverance. Perseverance was the key for me,” Hurts said. “I had great people around me. But it all came down to perseverance.”
I heard this a long time ago in NFL locker rooms, but it seems to have at least a shred of truth: The fastest athletes walk the slowest. That kind of seems like the deal with Hurts. He’s not overly excitable, he’s not going to show a ton of emotion in press conferences. He’s a cool, laid-back dude, who becomes a different guy when he takes control of a huddle.
If you’re trying to find someone to say a bad thing about Hurts, good luck. Everyone who comes across this kid seems to like him, including the coach who once benched him on one of the biggest stages in football.
His new teammates seem to like him too. And that should help navigate any possible divisiveness that could come about as Hurts gets ready to replace the Eagles’ franchise quarterback for a game or possibly more.
“He’s a very funny guy. I mean, he’s a very laid-back guy, like myself. We click,” Jalen Reagor said. “We kind of share the same kind of personality. We joke a lot. A lot of people don’t really know about the things we do outside of football, because we’re pretty laid-back guys, we like to chill. He’s a pretty good guy; he really doesn’t do too much, he’s about his business, about his work. And I’m pretty confident in him.”
The good news for Hurts is that Sunday won’t be his first NFL action. He got 33 snaps before the Packers game and then got several series after Wentz was benched. He even got to throw his first touchdown pass, a 32-yard beauty to Greg Ward.
After that touchdown he threw up a hand sign that looked like the Texas Hook ‘em Horns, but he explained it was a signal to pay homage to his hometown of Houston. Remember, he knows where he comes from.
When asked on Wednesday to name the person most responsible for getting him to this point in his career and life, Hurts didn’t hesitate to say his parents, who “raised a hard-working man.” He’s using those lessons again this week.
“As a kid, you dream of opportunities like this,” Hurts said. “Like always, my head’s down and I’m always working. And I’m attacking it.”
Of course he is. That’s what he’s always done.
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