Thank You, Jalen

Thank You, Jalen

From a losing his starting spot in the national championship, to becoming an Alabama legend.

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After the clock struck zeros during Alabama's loss to Clemson in the national championship game, every fan knew that Jalen Hurts' days as a student-athlete in Tuscaloosa were numbered. And in an article written by Hurts for the Players Tribune, Hurts unveiled his decision to transfer to Oklahoma for his senior season. But the article wasn't just an announcement. It was a thank you note, a tribute, a love letter to the his "Alabama family".

Throughout the piece, Hurts' stoic demeanor and laid back personality take somewhat of a back seat. Here he shares his feelings, specifically his love for the university and how grateful he was to be coached by Nick Saban. I feel the least I could do is write a thank you letter, for everything he accomplished at Alabama and even more importantly the lessons he taught the world.

Hurts enrolled early as a freshman in order to be able to play spring football, and ironically that was the first Alabama game I'd actually attended. Blake Sims had just graduated and the tide was looking for someone else to man the offense. Most speculated that it was a battle between Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett. But out trotted a little ole freshman from Texas who operated within the offense with the poise of a fifth-year senior. Walking out of that game my father and I didn't know who coach Saban would pick, but what we did know was that Jalen Hurts was the future. We just didn't know how soon it would come.

At this point, everyone knows the story. Hurts win the starting job week 1 against USC and lead the crimson tide to an undefeated regular season before coming just short in the national championship. Then the next season is when people sort of turned on him a little bit.

Alabama vs USC Highlights 2016 YouTube

You can't tell me that you didn't hear some people calling for his job in the student section. I'm sure in hindsight those people regret it, but it happened nonetheless. That sort of thought process did in fact leak into Saban's mind when he benched Hurts in the national championship game in favor of Tua. Most people won't be able to handle that mentally. But Jalen Hurts isn't most people.

Like some quarterbacks around college football, he didn't run from his problems. He embraced them and worked through them. His decision to stay at Alabama shocked the college football world and it proved to be the correct decision for him. The biggest issue with Hurts' game was his passing. So what did he do? Completed 72.9 percent of his passes, albeit in a mostly mop-up role but even his most harsh critics could see the improvement.

Even though Hurts' really only played in the second half of blowouts in the regular season, seeing him run out onto the field were some of my favorite moments of the game. Every single time he broke the huddle the cheers were deafening and well deserved. No more so than the SEC championship.

Not even Steven Spielberg could write a story this emotionally compelling. When a Heisman trophy candidate in Tua Tagovailoa goes down late in the fourth quarter his back-up, the man who's spot had been taken from him enters to try and win the game. Not to mention he walks onto the same field and faces the same team who cost him his starting spot. Lights, camera, action.

Jalen's comeback was the biggest spoon full of poetic justice I'd ever seen. Because it wasn't really done with his trademark legs, it was done with his arm. He made passes which he was not capable of making the year prior, and Georgia had absolutely no answer. When he found Jerry Jeudy in the back of the endzone to tie the game everyone knew there was only one way the game was going to end. Even Georgia head coach Kirby Smart knew it too when he called an awful fake punt.

Then it happened. Alabama's offense at midfield, three minutes to go and Jalen Hurts marches down the field and gallops into the endzone to put 'Bama ahead 35-28 and ultimately win the SEC championship.

Alabama stuns Georgia in GAME OF THE YEAR! 💯 JALEN HURTS IS BACK 🔥 SEC Championship Highlights YouTube

Now I'm not an emotional guy. I have feelings, I'm not cold but I would say that it's very rare when I am moved to tears. This was one of those rare moments. It wasn't because Alabama had won the SEC championship, it wasn't because we were going to another college football playoff. No, I was so happy that a little freshman from Texas had grown up right before our eyes and proved to the entire world that no odds are too difficult to overcome. He proved that if you have "commitment, discipline, effort, toughness, and pride" you can do anything. For these reasons and so many more, I will one day sit my children down and tell them the story of Jalen Hurts. And for that all I can say now is:

Thank you, Jalen

Roll Tide.

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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