Jalen Hurts reaps rewards by staying at Alabama


By Hannah Saad

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Since Tua Tagovailoa hit DeVonta Smith to win the national championship, former starting quarterback Jalen Hurts’ future with the team was a question.

Some predicted that he would leave before the season started.

He stayed.

With the new redshirt rule, players can play in four games and maintain that year of eligibility . Other big-name players have chosen to play the four games and leave with a redshirt. People thought he would sit out the season after the fourth game.

He played.

“He’s always put the team first,” head coach Nick Saban said. “He’s gone in the game whenever we’ve asked him to go into the game. We played him as much as we could so that, if this came up, he was going to be ready. I think it worked out great, and I think this is a great example of why guys don’t need to run off and just transfer every chance they get or every time something doesn’t work out.

“Jalen is going to be a more successful person in his life because of what he went through, not winning 26 games, but what he went through this year trying to be the kind of person who had to support other people after he was a star player.”

Fans that once groaned or booed him changed their opinion, especially when he trotted out onto the field in the Iron Bowl, when Bryant-Denny Stadium reached its peak, or close to it, stadium noise.

“I got a lot of love for this university,” Hurts said. “For them showing the love that they’ve given to me, them showing the support means a lot to me, and it means a lot to my family.”

When Alabama played in the SEC Championship game in early December, it was almost déjà vu of the national championship. The backup came into the game and led the Crimson Tide to a close win.

Three-hundred twenty-seven days before Hurts led the comeback, he was replaced after throwing for just 21 yards. In the SEC Championship, he threw for 83 yards on his two drives.

“It felt so good to see that happen to him,” outside linebacker Christian Miller said. “I had talked to him during the summer and stuff… and I told him ‘Just trust it. Just trust it. You never know when you’re going to be called or what can happen.’ It’s crazy that this ended up happening. If you asked me back then, I wouldn’t have guessed this.

“For that to happen for him on this stage, not only does it mean so much for him, it means so much to all of us that with someone with his character, his resiliency, just the type of person that he is, it’s a blessing that it happened to someone like that.”

After the win, Saban said that he’s never been prouder of a player than Hurts. It’s hard to imagine the quiet 6-foot-2 quarterback not starting. Since his freshman year, he started all but one game for Alabama, winning 26 of the 28 games and leading the Crimson Tide to two national championships.

When Tagovailoa jogged to the field against Louisville, he was officially named the starting quarterback, and with his play he has cemented his name into that spot.

While most people would be mad about losing that job that he excelled at, Hurts just went to work and continued to develop.

“I think every day I wake up trying to be a better version of me,” he said.

He continued to compete for the job, but as a team leader, he wanted Tagovailoa to feel like the starter. When Alabama warms up for practice, it lines up by depth chart position. Hurts told Tagovailoa to go to the front of the line, but Tagovailoa wouldn’t go, saying it was Hurts’ spot.

“It was awesome,” quarterbacks coach Dan Enos said. “Those two guys respect one another.”

Besides his role changing on the field there were two big changes for Hurts since the overtime win against Georgia in the title game.

The first came 13 days after the win. Hurts’ signature look was his dreadlocks that he had grown out since he was 10. He nearly cut them, but he made a deal that Alabama had to win the national championship before the cut.

“I had been kind of wanting to cut it, I just needed a reason to,” Hurts said.

On Dec. 15, he walked across the stage in Coleman Coliseum with his bachelor’s degree in public relations. As he walked, the people in attendance stood and applauded.

“It’s a great feeling,” Hurts said. “I felt like I was about to play in a game. Damien (Harris) was in front of me. I’m telling Damien, ‘Man lets go. Let’s get it…’ It was a very exciting moment, probably one of the most I’ve ever experienced.”