Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts probably shouldn’t be friends. It’s not often in sports that players maintain a cordial relationship (bordering on besties) with their replacement, right? Especially not after getting upstaged on the biggest stage.
Hurts was benched at halftime of the 2017 BCS National Championship, then Tagovailoa guided Alabama to a 26-23 overtime win. Hurts eventually transferred to Oklahoma where he finished second in Heisman Trophy voting in 2019. There’s more to the story, but that’s enough background. Point is, Tagovailoa and Hurts remain on friendly terms.
“I want to see him win,” Hurts told reporters, “and I know he wants to see me win.”
Both guys came out the other side as starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Hurts for the Philadelphia Eagles; Tagovailoa for the Miami Dolphins. Their previous competition at Alabama played a huge part in forging their football identities.
“I knew when I went to Alabama, I’d have to compete and compete against a guy that was really good,” Tagovailoa told reporters. “The year before that he was the SEC Player of the Year, and he led his team to the national championship. I knew what I was up against. But at the same time, when you go to a place like that, the standards are high, expectations are extremely high as well, because of the success that they’ve had.”
So was Tagovailoa’s respect for Hurts and his insane work ethic.
“The dude’s a hard worker in the weight room, in the classroom and then on the field,” Tagovailoa said. “The dude had to be the first into the weight room, he had to be the first out onto the field. Like sprints, he had to be first. So, it really tells you how he goes about his life. It tells you about how he kind of sees things and how he looks at things.”
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Swapping Scouting Reports, Practice Tips
Prior to Week 1 of the 2021 season, Hurts offered Tagovailoa tips on how to prepare for the Patriots. The Eagles had held joint practices with New England last summer and, according to reporters on the scene, Hurts had dominated. He also texted Tagovailoa a mini scouting report on New Orleans before the Dolphins and Saints battled. Miami won both of those games: 20-3 over the Saints; 17-16 over the Patriots.
“It’s always good to be connected to guys around the league and coaches around the league,” Hurts said. “It’s all to help a friend.”
Tagovailoa returned the favor by sharing his secrets on reading the Falcons’ defense. Miami and Atlanta had held joint practices last July at Baptist Health Training Complex. The Eagles came out in Week 1 and stomped the Falcons 32-6.
“I reached out to him, gave me some good insight on things,” Hurts said. “He told me how he was kind of seeing their defense and personnel things.”
Alabama Guys Just Wired Different
Alabama competes for a national championship every year under legendary head coach Nick Saban. The future Hall of Famer just received a pay bump that will earn him roughly $11.7 million per year through 2030. Saban is the GOAT, arguably worth every penny.
He expects to win every game on the schedule, and a lot of times the Crimson Tide do. And his players tend to carry that never-settle-for-less attitude into their NFL locker rooms after they leave Tuscaloosa.
“When you go to Alabama, you know you’re going to win a national championship,” Hurts told reporters. “You know you’re going to have the opportunity to compete for one at least. That’s always the approach we had. And then obviously the next step is going to the NFL and taking advantage of the opportunity if presented itself. And Alabama’s been able to turn out a lot of talent, that’s something Nick Saban’s done, and he’s been there for a long time.”