Jalen Hurts has been to the mountaintop, been toppled off, and then climbed right back up.
After leading Alabama to the BCS title game as a freshman quarterback in 2016, Hurts lost his job at halftime of the same game in 2017.
He watched, supported, and cheered as then-freshman Tua Tagovailoa sparkled in the second half and delivered the Crimson Tide a national championship.
He watched, supported, and cheered as Tagovailoa set the college football world on fire in 2018. Hurts never pouted, and his patience paid off when he rallied the Tide to a win over Georgia in the SEC title game after Tagovailoa was injured.
Hurts left Tuscaloosa after that season and landed in Norman, Okla., as a graduate transfer, hoping to lead Lincoln Riley’s high-flying Sooner offense. He had big shoes to fill as the previous two Oklahoma starting QBs, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, had been drafted No. 1 overall.
Hurts was impressive from the moment he stepped on campus, powering the Sooners to the BCS playoffs — his fourth straight trip — and finishing second in the Heisman race to LSU’s Joe Burrow.
“I think being able to adjust, continuing to adjust, and adjust to the differences where Coach Riley presents himself and how he teaches his stuff,’’ said Hurts, who was quickly named one of the team’s four captains. “It was very different from what I was used to, so the biggest deal for me, I didn’t know Coach Riley, but I was there for 11 months. So, trusting him, trusting his system, watching film of those past two guys, and just trying to put myself in the best situation to educate. I think we made a lot of explosive plays on offense, presented the defenses with different fits with the ability to run the ball from the quarterback position. I know it was very lethal.’’
Through the ups and downs of the last four years, Hurts’s confidence never wavered. Instead, he channeled the adversity into strength.
“All of it made me better. All of it has made me stronger, a better man, a wiser man. A better leader,’’ said Hurts. “Again, in two programs, it’s tough. To having to adjust to different players and just being respected to where every team I’ve been on has followed me regardless of the position of where I came from … I don’t go into any place trying to be something I’m not, force it, say, ‘Hey, y’all got to follow me … ’ It doesn’t work like that. Especially in this business I’m about to get into. I’m a grown man. I can just be the best version of myself, working hard, being who I am. I think real recognizes real. I’ve got that effect sometimes, and they follow me.’’
Hurts’s attitude, leadership, and mental toughness are reasons the Patriots could be tempted to take a chance on him to compete for their quarterback vacancy.
In addition, he has excellent physical skills.
Hurts’s production during college read like video game numbers, including 9,477 passing yards and 80 touchdowns to go along with 3,274 rushing yards and 43 TDs.
While some had suggested the 6-foot-1-inch, 222-pounder might be better suited to play running back or receiver in the NFL, Hurts showed during the combine that his future is at quarterback.
Watching Hurts throw during the drills in Indianapolis, he looked confident with his footwork and threw the ball with decent accuracy and impressive distance. He clearly favored throwing to his right, but with some coaching and work, that will improve.
Comparisons to New Orleans’s jack-of-all-trades QB Taysom Hill are logical because both players have special skill sets that allow them to be productive from a variety of spots.
Having Hurts in Foxborough could be a win-win, as he would not only push Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer for the starter’s job, he could also boost the offense by appearing in specialty packages designed by Josh McDaniels.