Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts Embracing Leadership amid veteran departure…

On graduation day, outside the Barry Switzer Center, the air is heavy, thick, sticky, presaging the thunderstorm threatening to erupt. Traffic snakes through the streets lining the Oklahoma campus. Sweat spots polka-dot dress shirts. True love becomes sharing ever-dampening handkerchiefs with ever-more-desperate relatives.

It’s early afternoon when an NFL quarterback who’s better known for the other college he attended strolls into the training facility named after a famous Sooners coach. This is Oklahoma, so of course the athlete ceremony takes place atop an indoor turf field adjacent to the weight room. The forecast forced the university-wide graduation, the evening portion of this festive spring Friday, indoors.

Beyond the hash marks, the field is outfitted like any other graduation (balloons, white folding chairs, champagne flutes). But on this day, in this place, for this quarterback, it’s also typical but in a different way. For Jalen Hurts, this day in mid-May opens a window into his superpower: intention. While not a novel concept in sports, Hurts’s application of purpose, the thorough, deliberate, precise and varied ways he deploys intent, stretches far beyond what’s typical.

Clay Patrick McBride/Sports Illustrated

Few superstars decide to finish their educational pursuits while acclimating to the NFL. Fewer still are quarterbacks on the cusp of careers that now project far beyond the wildest of pre-draft expectations. Even fewer obtain master’s degrees, as Hurts did. Fewer still return to a stopover where they spent just one season. But Hurts is here. Of course he’s here, because in his hand he holds a cellphone, and on that cellphone is an itinerary—every meeting, break, speech, meal and ceremony, scheduled to the minute.

This says a lot about Jalen Hurts, as does the story longtime athletic director Joe Castiglione tells the crowd. The first time I met this young man . . He’s off! Oklahoma was the fourth program Hurts visited (Miami, Maryland, Ohio State) after completing his undergraduate degree (public relations) at Alabama, after the infamous benching and the backup season. The transfer tour highlighted jarring contrasts in cities and campuses. Hurts wanted it that way. But after only one day in Norman, he knew where he would play.

Hurts needed another degree about as much as he needed another throwing arm. He could have shown up, enrolled in easy classes, played a season with an eye on the NFL draft and departed with roughly the same life he has now. But, Hurts explained to Castiglione, that wasn’t his plan. When Hurts’s own brother calls him The Robot, this is why: the designs/itineraries/ resolute core. Hurts would not consider agents before or during the season. He would narrow his focuses to football and an advanced degree in human relations, which he planned to apply initially to leading football teams. Like the Eagles.

For most, low. For Hurts, 100%. He approached that 2019 season like he does everything else, by thinking through every decision, speech, interaction, practice, game, class and test. He considered every sentence he uttered and many he never said. Same as always and same as now, when Castiglione beckons him onstage. Beyond a rare joke—about the dozen-plus silver trophies lined up like gleaming bodyguards; “quite the flex,” he calls it—Hurts delivers a short, direct, efficient speech that he clearly had rehearsed and memorized.

A parade of Sooners athletes swarms him afterward, asking for selfies, group pics, even autographs. One yells out, “Go Eagles!” Like all of them, Hurts receives an oversize ring for the degree completed. He proudly throws his on (left hand, index finger), but that’s not the ring he wants. He’d trade a thousand of those rings for the one he almost seized last February.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *