There are certain intangibles that successful NFL quarterbacks — heck, people in general — either have or they don’t have. You can be born with a golden arm (see: Ryan Leaf) but unless the work ethic and desire to win are there, it probably isn’t going to translate into Peyton Manning.
Jalen Hurts seems to be the complete package. The second-round pick out of Oklahoma will be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles this week. The dual-threat rookie oozes confidence and swagger, something not lost on his new teammates in Philly. To hear them talk, you might think he was a 10-year veteran. He has the traits of a man obsessed with being great.
“I’ve constantly seen growth from him, from training camp all the way up,” Eagles captain Rodney McLeod said. “He works extremely hard and that’s a credit to him and that’s something that you can’t teach or coach — it’s just in you, that hard work and the work ethic that he displays on a consistent basis.”
Wait, everyone needs to take a deep breath and back away from the bath salts. Hurts has played less than two quarters of professional football and — if we’re being honest — his stats weren’t that awe-inspiring: 5-of-12 (41%) for 109 yards with one touchdown and one interception (34.3 QBR), plus five carries for 29 yards.
Jalen Hurts’ first practice as an NFL starter. pic.twitter.com/Im5LzK5DdK
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) December 9, 2020
However, he did flash a poise in the pocket and command of the huddle that didn’t show up in the box score. His teammates came away inspired.
“The fact of the matter is you can’t even tell Jalen’s a rookie,” right tackle Jack Driscoll said. “You expect a rookie quarterback to be in there and be uncomfortable and whatnot, but it was really the opposite. Jalen came right in and took control and just kind of said, ‘Hey, let’s go. We’re all in this together.’ He didn’t skip a beat, Jalen was prepared.”
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Swagger Since He Entered the Building
It’s not that anyone was knocking Carson Wentz or even comparing Hurts to his benched predecessor. In fact, everyone in the locker room heaped high praise on Wentz before gushing about the new guy under center.
All-Pro center Jason Kelce revealed Hurts’ leadership style is “quieter” than Wentz but he would expect that from a rookie. That’s not a bad thing. More impressively, Hurts has displayed rare intangibles and supreme confidence.
Miles Sanders on Jalen Hurts
“His confidence is through the roof. His command of the huddle. I don’t really see any weaknesses. I’m excited to see him on the field, honestly”
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) December 10, 2020
“From Day 1, ever since Jalen’s stepped inside the building, he’s brought this swagger,” left tackle Jordan Mailata said. “He’s always had that confidence, and you could tell as soon as he walked in, the man had confidence and he’s always had confidence.”
“I can think about when I played, they said, ‘Hey don’t go be Brett Favre, be Doug Pederson.’ So, that’s my message to him,” Pederson said. “Be Jalen Hurts and do the things that he can do.”
Nick Saban: ‘Personality and Charisma’
Nick Saban was Hurts’ first college coach and whispered in his ear for three years down in Tuscaloosa, so he knows him better than most. Hurts threw for 5,626 yards and 48 touchdowns while rushing for 1,976 yards and 23 scores. Then, he was benched during halftime of the 2017 national championship game and eventually transferred to Oklahoma.
Asked Nick Saban tonight about Jalen Hurts. I said we hadn’t had a chance to meet him in person yet due to Covid. Wondered what kind of guy he is when you get to know him? Also asked him about the Jalen/Tua situation at Bama. Thoughtful answer. @NBCPhiladelphia pic.twitter.com/L6ZqHiIhi3
— rob kuestner (@rkuestnernbc10) December 10, 2020
It was a bizarre set of circumstances and it played out how it played out. Saban has always had kind words to say about Hurts and vice versa. So it was no surprise to hear the Crimson Tide coach revel in Hurts’ charisma and personality during his weekly media availability.
“Jalen was always a great leader for our team,” Saban said, via NJ Advance Media. “Even when he first came here as a guy trying to get on the field and did it as a freshman. If you didn’t have the personality and the charisma that he has as a leader, I don’t think he would have been able to do that. Then to handle the situation that he was in later in his career showed tremendous class. He’s a great team guy. I think players really respect that.”
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