The restrictions placed on the NFL caused by the coronavirus have made it challenging for most rookies, trades, and free agents to become acquainted with their new teammates. That’s not the case for Falcons newly added tight end, Hayden Hurst.
According to ESPN’s Mina Kimes, Hurst says he has been road-tripping from Jacksonville, Florida to Atlanta for the last month to get some passes in with his QB, Matt Ryan.
Hurst told Kimes, “That’s helping me a lot…that’s really going to pay off during training camp.”
Falcons TE Hayden Hurst told ESPN’s Mina Kimes for the last four weeks, he’s been driving back and forth from Jacksonville to Atlanta to throw with Matt Ryan. “That’s helping me a lot,’’ Hurst told Kimes. “That’s really going to pay off during training camp.’’
— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) May 20, 2020
Jacksonville is Hurst’s hometown and it takes approximately 4 hours and 53 minutes to get to Atlanta. Factor in the traffic and you’ve easily hit the five-hour mark.
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Falcons Trade for Hurst
The 26-year-old was selected by the Baltimore Ravens as their No. 25 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Hurst was a walk-on at the University of South Carolina. In his first two seasons with the Ravens, Hurst caught 43 passes for 512 yards and three touchdowns.
The Falcons traded one of their second-round picks (No. 55 overall) and their fifth-round pick (No. 157 overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft and received Hurst and the Ravens’ fourth-round pick (No. 134 overall) in this year’s draft in return.
The Falcons lost their starting tight end, Austin Hooper, after they left him to hit the free agency mark. Hooper signed the biggest TE contract with the Cleveland Browns.
Hurst earned a 72.4 grade from Pro Football Focus last season which landed him at No. 14 among all NFL tight ends.
Hurst’s Dark Journey From MLB to NFL
Hurst actually packed up his bags and headed to Pittsburgh to play Major League Baseball for the Pirates, prior to joining the NFL.
At 18-years-old, Hurst developed the Yips. Yips are uncontrollable wrist spasms which led to Hurst’s inability to throw the ball or even hit.
Hurst, at 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, still, he earned a scholarship as a walk-on at USC. He was in a very dark place in South Carolina after his shattering MLB career, which almost cost him his own life.
While battling severe depression, he still managed to set the school single-season record for receptions by a tight end that fall with 48. in 2017, he caught 44 more passes. He entered the draft in 2018 and went in the first round.
The NFL changed Hurst’s life for the better, it gives him another chance to shine.
What to Expect From Hurst
After signing with the Falcons in March, Hurst told Falcons’ reporter Kelsey Conway the kind of player Atlanta is getting.
“For me, I’ve always kind of prided myself on being a well-rounded tight end. Coming out of the SEC I was able to do the run game and the physicality stuff, Hurst told Conway. But you know being 6’5, 265 lbs, and being able to run the way that I do puts a lot of stress on linebackers a lot of stress on safeties. I think I’m able to stretch the field vertically really well. I was able to show that a little bit in Baltimore here and there. It’s just, I’m’ just so excited about the opportunity because I think it’s going to be awesome for my skillset. And again I just want to contribute as much as I can to the Falcons.”
With the kind of versatility, mentality and work ethic Hurst has, Falcons players, coaches, and fans should be excited about this one.