How Hayden Hurst Went From MLB to First Round NFL Draft Pick

Hayden Hurst

getty Hayden Hurst #81 of the Baltimore Ravens.

The true story of Hayden Hurst is coming to light now that the Falcons have traded for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst. The Falcons will send their second- and fifth-round picks to Baltimore for Hurst and a fourth-round selection.

Like many players in the NFL, Hurst didn’t grow up dreaming of playing professional football. He had other plans that were originally meant for him or so he thought.

‘A Special Arm’

Hurst grew up in Jacksonville Florida. Since T-ball Hurst had an incredible right arm. The league was actually forced to pump him up for the safety of other kids after he threw the ball “too hard” to first base.

By the eighth grade, Hurst was pitching for his high school’s varsity team. He even had a low-90s fastball that led his school to two state titles.

The summer heading into his senior year, Hurst pitched in the Under Armour High School All-American game at Wrigley Field that led Florida State to offer him a full scholarship. Hurst accepted but then the Pirates called. The Pirates selected Hurst in the 17th round of the 2012 Draft. They offered him a $400,000 signing bonus which easily convinced the 18-year-old to forgo senior year and college. He reported to Pittsburgh’s Rookie League team instead.

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The Yips

Hurst had it made, or so he thought. He was playing in the MLB—what he was meant to do right out of the womb.

Until one day, he began losing feeling in his right hand. He couldn’t feel when he threw the ball, he could feel the strike zone. He had developed the yips out of nowhere. Yips are uncontrollable wrist spasms.

He didn’t give up.

He went to the field every morning with a new pitching coach. He saw a psychiatrist, he journaled and he weirdly tried hypnotism. The Pirates worked with him and switched him over to first base for the 2014 season. He couldn’t even hit anymore.

The Last Option

After exhausting every option there was, his pitching coach Scott Elarton had a new idea.

He told him to go play football.

Hurst, 6-foot-5, could still run a 4.60 40-yard dash which made him a perfect fit at tight end. He hadn’t played football since junior year of high school, but it didn’t matter. Many FBS teams were interested in the former MLB star pitcher.

He decided to walk-on at South Carolina. He made the team and the following 2016 season, he earned a scholarship. That fall, he set the school single-season record for receptions by a tight end that fall with 48. in 2017, he caught 44 more passes as a 24-year-old junior.

That year, he entered the NFL Draft and was projected to be selected in the first round. The Ravens drafted Hurst with the 25th overall pick.

His journey doesn’t stop there, it’s just begun.

Hurst will play for the Atlanta Falcons this upcoming season where he has a real chance to shine as a starter now that Austin Hooper is gone.

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