WESTWOOD — Forget his name for a moment, and Maurice Hurst’s story is all good. Canton-born, Xaverian-educated, and bound for Michigan, he’s a kid who’s turned out to be one of the best football players in the country. But we did say Maurice Hurst and if that sounds familiar, it should.
Maurice Hurst Jr. — and note the important addition — wants you to know it’s no big deal. There’s still frustration, but nothing his teammates or coaches at Xaverian would ever notice. His father, the former Patriots defensive back, is out of the picture, rarely seeing or even talking to his son. In fact, Maurice Sr. has never seen Maurice Jr. play a single football game, from Pop Warner to Xaverian.
He’s missing a lot.
After finishing at Xaverian, Hurst will play before 100,000-plus fans at the University of Michigan next fall.
“Even when I was little I didn’t really talk about it too much,’’ said Hurst. “I wouldn’t tell people that my dad played in the NFL because they’d think that I had a bunch of money and I was just some rich kid from somewhere so I didn’t tell too many people. Even freshman year, I remember coming here, halfway through the season one of the coaches asked me if that was my dad, and I said, ‘ya, that’s him.’ ’’
When it comes to his dad, Hurst’s mantra is almost cliché — been there, dealt with that, and moving on.
“I don’t really care too much as far as what he’s really doing. It’s just me and my mom, so it doesn’t affect me too much. It’s not something I try and think about a lot.’’
But when he does think about it?
“There’s anger and frustration, just for not being there for me when I was younger or coming to my games or anything.”
Being an athlete
It was a hot July night and the Xaverian players participating in the Metro West 7-on-7 Passing Camp had a problem. They didn’t have a quarterback. And for a passing camp, that’s an issue. Enter 6-foot-2-inch, 285-pound lineman Maurice Hurst Jr. Let Hawks coach Charlie Stevenson tell the rest.
“I didn’t have any quarterbacks show up,’’ said Stevenson, who is entering his 20th year as Xaverian’s coach. “He played quarterback for me. Four touchdown passes against BC High. He had a pick at safety. He was playing cornerback trying to cover guys man to man.
“I think people underestimate the athleticism he possesses. He’s a very good athlete. He’s not just a big kid that’s aggressive. We’ve used him in our offensive backfield on occasion. And he can make plays running the football. In our summer passing league, he’s playing receiver, he’s playing cornerback, he’s playing safety, he’s just having a lot of fun being an athlete. That’s what separates him from a lot of other big guys.’’
And it’s time at the offensive skill positions, and his success, that led Hurst to change his number from 73 — the opposite of his father’s 37 with the Patriots — to No. 11 last year. Taking handoffs, about 20 total last fall, as No. 73 just didn’t feel right.
Nothing shows off athleticism like a 75-yard touchdown run. In the fourth quarter against St. John’s of Shrewsbury last October, Hurst added that to his résumé, a run that still brings an enormous smile to his face.
The call was “power right” and the goals were modest. A first down, maybe more. Seventy-five yards later, Hurst was in the end zone with the Hawks’ longest rushing touchdown of the season. It was his second touchdown of the game, but it wasn’t as easy as the 1-yard TD run he had earlier.
“I was really winded,’’ he said. “I don’t even know what happened. I was just really hyped up and motivated once I got the ball. It’s something that doesn’t happen that often so when you do get it, you kind of want to score. Power right is not really a play meant to score a touchdown. I was kind of shocked.”
Lineman or not, the run attracted the attention of college coaches, even though it had nothing to do with his future job description.
“It’s ironic that the 75-yard touchdown run is really the thing, too,’’ said Stevenson. “We tell all the college coaches he’s a defensive lineman and that’s what they’re recruiting him as, then all these defensive coordinators, this guy from Michigan, Billy McGovern from BC, they come in and sit down and they go, ‘Oh ya, that 75-yard touchdown was unbelievable.’
“Billy McGovern says he ran it back and asked all the guys in the room, ‘Do we have anyone who can do that?’ They go, ‘No.’ Well OK, we’re offering him.’’
BC’s offer was the first of 20 on a list that looked as much like the AP Top 20 poll as it would a teenager’s college choices. Florida, Nebraska, Ohio State, Virginia, Vanderbilt, and North Carolina were just a few of the schools that wanted him. In the end, the choice was Michigan.
“It just seemed to be a really good fit for me,” said Hurst. “I had big expectations when I went on my trip and they fulfilled all those expectations. When I went to the academic support staff, I liked that a lot, too. They were really great and seemed to know what they were talking about as far as making sure you’re not just academically eligible but performing your best in the classroom. That was big for me.
‘‘I wasn’t really too interested in going to mainly a football school. They’re great for people who just want to go into the NFL but I wanted a mix of both. That’s why it came down to Michigan and Virginia.’’
When Hurst was a freshman, the first thing Stevenson noticed wasn’t his size, his competitiveness, or his skills. It was his first step.
“I think probably the first indication to me was my defensive coordinator Al Fornaro said, ‘You’ve got to see this guy come off the ball.’ I looked and went yay. My description of him to college coaches who have recruited at our school for a lot of years and know some of our past players, I would compare his first step to a kid who played for us the late ’90s, Scott Bradley. Scott had a tremendous first step and that was the thing that sold all the coaches on Scotty, that first step. The difference between the two is that Scotty was 215 pounds, Mo is 295 pounds. If you’re 295 and can do what a 215-pounder does, you’re a good football player.’’
Hurst isn’t the first good football player in Westwood with a former Patriot as his father. Over the years the names Hasselbeck, Grogan, Cappadona, St. Jean, Lenkaitis, and Fox have appeared on Xaverian rosters, and this fall Wilfork, Andruzzi, and Tippett will be added. But unlike the other famous fathers, Stevenson has never seen or spoken to Hurst Sr.
A mother’s support
Nicole Page met Maurice Hurst in 1989 after he was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round out of Southern University. She was a Patriots cheerleader for three years after graduating from Stoughton High and spending time at Salem State studying criminal justice. They were never married but had a child, Maurice Jr., in 1995, during the last of Maurice Sr.’s seven-year career with New England that was good enough to earn him a spot on the Patriots’ All-Decade team.
If there’s one thing Hurst Jr. can count on, it’s his mom, who has never missed one of his games, or as she said, “No, never, ever, never, never ever. College may be the first time I’ll ever miss a game and I don’t know how I’ll be.”
Hurst’s decision to stay out of his son’s life confuses Page, who declined to provide Hurst’s telephone number.
“For me, it’s frustrating. Not on my end, but more on Maurice’s end because he’s such a great kid and everyone loves him. I just don’t understand why somebody wouldn’t want to be in more of a role in his life. So it’s a little frustrating, especially where little Mo loves football. He eats it, sleeps it and just absolutely loves it, and would love to follow in his father’s footsteps. I would think most people would love that. But he just . . . minimum contact.
“He has reached out to him a little bit. But now it’s to the point where Maurice is 17, and I don’t want to say it’s too late, but Maurice has other people to mentor him. Brent [Williams] has been incredible, his wife and whole family. My siblings have been very supportive. My father has been very supportive to Maurice. I have so many people and family and friends here, including the Xaverian Brothers family. We’ve had so much support, that little Maurice understands where the support has come from.”
One effort by Hurst Sr. to get involved backfired earlier this year.
The last time Maurice saw his father was freshman year, when he and his mother traveled to New Orleans, Hurst Sr.’s hometown. Since then there has been no contact, until they spoke just prior to Maurice’s commitment to Michigan in June.
“My mom told me to give him a call to talk about schools. It was kind of uncomfortable because he kind of wanted me to go to LSU or Alabama. He didn’t really think Michigan was an ideal school so it kind of frustrated me a little bit.’’
Maurice never told his father he was going to Michigan.
“My mom may have, I’m not really sure.’’
It’s been five or six years — Hurst isn’t sure exactly — since he saw Xaverian play Brockton, after which he was sold, returning home and telling his mom he wanted to be a Hawk.
Now he’s a senior.
Xaverian opens the season Saturday against Malden Catholic. After a 6-5 record last fall that landed the Hawks in third place in the Catholic Conference, Hurst has high hopes for his final season. The B student — “I think I could be an A student but I seem to be pretty busy most of the time’’ — wants to play for a Division 1 title in December.
It will be hard to improve on his 2011 numbers, during which he had 57 tackles, 8 sacks, 12 tackles for losses, 2 forced fumbles, 2 blocked PATs, and 4 batted-down passes. But Hurst is a captain this year and that means team goals.
“Win the Catholic Conference first, then try and win a Super Bowl,” he said.
Then it’s off to Ann Arbor, where he plans on majoring in computer science while competing on one of the largest stages in college football. He’ll switch back to No. 73 at Michigan, a number his mom gave him in Pop Warner.
If along the way his dad could see him play, sometime, somewhere, he wouldn’t mind.
“I mean that would be great but it wouldn’t really make a big difference to me.”
Maurice Hurst Jr. has moved on.Bob Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org