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