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NFL DRAFT | DEFENSIVE LINE

Maurice Hurst Jr. is a shining son in this draft class

Defensive lineman Maurice Hurst was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection last season.carlos osorio/AP

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Maurice Hurst Jr. was always a precocious kid.

“He did everything kind of early, which might have been a sign,” said Nicole Page, Hurst’s mother. “It seemed like he always talked, and he walked at, like, seven months. He rode a bike without training wheels at, like, 3. He always was very advanced, and very hyper, but very loving.”

It makes sense, then, that Hurst’s trip on the fast track has him on the cusp of an NFL career. Hurst should hear his name called early in the upcoming draft, in which the Michigan tackle is one of the top defensive linemen available.

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That’s a bit too easy, though.

Hurst was brought up in Canton. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the son of former Patriots cornerback Maurice Hurst, who met Page and had Maurice Jr. with her in 1995. But the elder Hurst decided not to be a part of his son’s life, and the two don’t have a relationship.

Instead, Hurst was raised by his mother, and also had his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins around.

“He’s always felt loved, so I think in that aspect he was fine, but, I mean, did it hurt him? I’m sure,” Page said. “Was it tough watching other kids with fathers? Absolutely.”

Hurst took to sports of all kinds — early, of course. Page had him in baseball, basketball, pee-wee football, even dance, and Hurst was a natural. His cousins, both boys six years older, were his at-home tackling dummies and throwing partners, the ones Hurst was always trying to keep up with.

His mother was always watching. Page was on the board of Hurst’s Pop Warner team and also coached the cheerleading squad. She went to every game. She even coached one of his basketball teams.

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At home, she made flashcards before tests, helped with school projects, and always made sure homework got done.

“She’s really tough on me,” Hurst said. “Always expects me to do the right thing. Just always give good effort in school and football and everything that I do.”

Page was demanding, but she also kept Hurst sheltered from the financial struggles of raising a quickly growing boy as a single mother. Their home in Canton was modest but loving. They’d go to Martha’s Vineyard every year as a family. When one bill or another caused Page stress, Hurst never knew.

Around the time he started eighth grade, though, Hurst decided he desperately wanted to go to Xaverian Brothers, a private Catholic school in Westwood. Tuition was about $13,000 per year and was only going up.

That led to a real-world conversation between mother and son.

“I just had to sit down and say, ‘Hey, I don’t have that kind of income,’ ” Page said.

What she didn’t say was no. There was a test Hurst needed to pass to get into Xaverian. If he passed, they’d need roughly enough financial aid to cover tuition above $7,o00.

Hurst passed the test. When the financial aid package came, it was just barely enough.

“You think, well, how do you say no?” Page said. “Your word is your word, and you’re like, you’re just going to make it work and that’s what I did.”

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She lowered their cable package and sold her old Jeep Grand Cherokee. She took out an extra mortgage, and any extra money went straight to tuition. Hurst had a work-study job. At the end of each semester, he resold his textbooks. He began to understand how hard his mother worked.

“Just seeing the sacrifices that we had to make to be able to do that and afford that,” Hurst said. “Just those type of things, you start to notice that are tough, especially on her.”

Hurst did well in school and excelled in football. He was a stellar defensive player but could play a little fullback, too. Hurst’s most famous high school play is probably a 75-yard touchdown run.

Occasionally, someone would notice his name and ask about his father.

“I’d kind of just brush it off or not really say much,” Hurst said.

It wouldn’t take long for them to notice his mother, anyway. Page never missed a game.

A list of 20 schools — including pretty much every blue-blood college football program you can name — eventually made offers to Hurst. Michigan, with its strong academic offerings, won out. Hurst was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, which required a GPA of 3.7 or higher. He got a degree in sports management and began working toward a master’s degree in social work.

As Hurst went through college, Page kept up her attendance streak. College football schedules are set long in advance, so she’d book hotels at least a year early to get good deals. She knows more tips and tricks than most travel agents.

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That meant she was in the Big House, or wherever Michigan was on the road, as Hurst built his status as a top-flight NFL prospect.

Hurst redshirted as a freshman and played in three games as a sophomore. In the three years since then, he has played in all but one game. He was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2017, when he made 59 tackles, including 13 for losses, and had 5.5 sacks.

At 6 feet 2 inches and 282 pounds, he’s smallish for an interior lineman but makes up for it with a lightning-quick start, which means he’s often long gone by the time blockers can be ready for him.

And as well as he played, the thing his coaches seem quickest to point out is that Hurst was always down-to-earth, worked hard, and was a good teammate.

“I wish we had more Mo Hursts,” coach Jim Harbaugh said this past season.

The NFL would probably say the same.

There was a hiccup in Hurst’s pre-draft process when the results of an EKG at the scouting combine were irregular. He’d had a similar result to a test at Michigan, but had been cleared to play. Hurst wasn’t allowed to work out at the combine, though he did stay in Indianapolis to meet with teams.

“It kind of sucked,” Hurst said, “But at the same time I was still there to be able to meet with coaches and talk to them, and get to talk football and just be able to be around them.”

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After he left, Hurst met with cardiologists at Michigan and Harvard, and was allowed to participate in the Wolverines’ Pro Day. He ran a 4.97 40-yard dash and recorded a vertical jump of 31 inches, both very good results for a defensive tackle. Hurst was not among the players asked to return to Indianapolis for a medical recheck earlier this month.

It was an added stress during a busy time, but the big picture always remained bright. Hurst should be drafted high. He and Page aren’t fussing over exactly how high. She’s thinking more about how quickly everything has gone by.

“To see possibly his dreams, what he’s dreamed about so long, come true is an overwhelming experience,” Page said.

Hurst’s scholarship at Michigan made Page feel as though it had all been worth it. The NFL will be further proof, but she already feels validated. Hurst, though, said he thinks there’s a lot more he can do.

“Just be successful, in not only football but hopefully as, like, a dad,” he said. “Or just being a great son.”

The top defensive linemen in the NFL Draft

PLAYER

POS.

SCHOOL

HT.

WT.

40

RD.

Bradley Chubb

DE

N. Carolina St.

6-4

269

4.65

1

Bronko Nagurski Award winner racked up 26 tackles for losses last season and is widely regarded as the best defensive player available in the draft.

Harold Landry

EDGE

BC

6-3

252

4.64

1

Injuries meant his senior season wasn't as spectacular as his first-team All-ACC junior year, but he has exceptional quickness and versatility.

Vita Vea*

DT

Washington

6-4

340

5.1

1

Former high school running back is an exceptional athlete for his size; bench-pressed 225 pounds 41 times at the combine.

Marcus Davenport

DE

UTSA

6-6

264

4.58

1

Has the long, tall frame teams look for, and is fast and explosive.

Maurice Hurst

DT

Michigan

6-2

282

4.97

1-2

His 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons show that he can be a playmaker from an interior position. On the small side, but his quickness is valuable, as interior pressure on quarterbacks is essential in today's game.

Da'Ron Payne*

DT

Alabama

6-2

311

4.95

1-2

Had only three sacks in as many seasons at Alabama, but he's a run-stuffer with good size and comes from a defensive powerhouse.

Best of the rest: DT Taven Bryan, Florida (6-4, 291, 4.98); DE Sam Hubbard*, Ohio State (6-5, 265, n/a); DE Rasheem Green*, USC (6-5, 275, 4.73); DE Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama (6-4, 297, 4.83); DT Tim Settle*, Virginia Tech (6-3, 335, 5.37); DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford (6-4, 307, 5.21); EDGE Arden Key*, LSU (6-6, 238, n/a).

*underclassman


Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.