Several weeks ago the “Ten Best-Mannered People of 2018” were named and of all the lists compiled in the country, this is my favorite. Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback who virtually lives his life to enhance that of others, was the hands-down winner. He and his “Brees Dream Foundation” are so steeped in goodness it will make you cry.
Justin Thomas, the pro golfer whose kindness and adroit manners were already recognized when he played in college at Alabama, was No. 2 and Ed Sheeran, one of the world’s greatest singers, was third “for his over-and-beyond kindness to his fans.” Incidentally, that kindness has worked really well for Ed: right now he has sold more than 38 million albums and 100 million singles worldwide.
The list, compiled by the National League of Junior Cotillions out of Charlotte, NC, followed with actor Will Smith, pro golfer Lexi Thompson, NBA star Stephan Curry, Clemson’s sensational freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence and, at ninth, actress/dancer Zendaya Coleman.
Yet it was tenth place that got the most attention and rightly so. Alabama substitute quarterback Jalen Hurts “for demonstrating exemplary character through a challenging transition.” Hurts announced Wednesday he would transfer from Alabama, where he was once king of the pile in Bryant-Denny Stadium, to Oklahoma to play his senior season.
A new sensation, Tua Tagovailoa, captured Hurts’ position in a time-honored football tradition of “earn your spot, “and Jalen saw mostly mop-up duty for the SEC champions this fall. The son of a high school coach in Houston, Hurts never whined, complained or even once failed to display the character, the class or the charisma of “a team player.” As a teammate said, “He didn’t even wince.”
When Alabama played Georgia in the SEC title game, Tagovailoa suddenly injured his ankle and Hurts was ready. The Tide was behind 28-21 and Georgia was surging. Are you kidding me? Georgia had 454 yards of offense against Alabama’s vaunted defense, but Alabama had Hurts coming off the bench.
With 5:10 left to play, Jalen drilled a 10-yard touchdown pass to Alabama’s sophomore All-America receiver, Jerry Jeudy, this year’s winner of the Fred Biletnikoff Award. Joseph Bulovas’ kick knotted the game at 28. By then Hurts was in his zone, not about to sputter, and with just 1:04 remaining on the Atlanta clock, Hurts’ 15-yard run into the end zone put an emotional exclamation point on his three seasons at the Capstone.
Alabama beat Georgia, 34-28, and at the end of the game Jalen had passed for 42 touchdowns and run for another 22 in a legendary line that includes Gilmer, Starr, Trammell, Namath, Sloan, Stabler, Hunter, the Rutledge brothers, Barker, McElroy, McCarron, Sims, Coker, and now Tagovailoa. Hurts could play toe-to-toe with any of them and this SEC title, plus two starts in the national championship game, will save Jalen’s place in line on Mount Zeus for time immemorial.
Better, Jalen Hurts has become one of the most loved players in Alabama history. Many times this fall Hurts would walk into a restaurant or a gathering and receive a standing ovation. Last month, when he was awarded his diploma, the entire graduating class jumped to a standing ovation the minute his name was read, and the faculty and guests promptly obliged as well.
So, let’s ask Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban about Jalen Hurts:
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“HE’S ALWAYS PUT THE TEAM FIRST” – NICK SABAN
“I’ve probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the SEC championship game. "It’s unprecedented to have a guy that won as many games as he won, I think 26 or something, over a two-year period, start as a freshman, only lose a couple games this whole time that he was a starter and then all of a sudden he’s not the quarterback.
“How do you manage that? How do you handle that? You’ve got to have a tremendous amount of character and class to put team first, knowing your situation is not what it used to be. And for a guy that’s a great competitor, that takes a lot. It’s not easy to do. And he’s always put the team first. ...
“Jalen is going to be a more successful person in his life because of what he went through, not winning 26 games, but what he went through this year trying to be the kind of person who had to support other people after he was a star player.”
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On Wednesday, as Jalen announced he would play his senior year at Oklahoma, he wrote a heart-felt letter to his much-loved Alabama family. He hoped that they would read it and know his heart will always be in Tuscaloosa. I personally believe the only mistake Jalen has made since first arriving in Tuscaloosa is that he mangled the address – this is a letter all of America must read – and it is with delight I play the role of the postmaster:
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“I AM STRONGER FOR IT. I AM WISER. I’M A BETTER MAN” – JALEN HURTS
Commitment. Discipline. Effort. Toughness. Pride.
Those are the five commandments of Alabama football. Those are the five commandments that have been instilled in me, and that have defined me, for the past three years. And as I write this letter, I find myself drawing on those commandments one more time.
It’s been almost four years, now, since the day I got the phone call that changed my life. A coach by the name of Nick Saban was on the line, wanting to ask about the chances of a Texas boy like me packing up for Tuscaloosa, and coming to play football at the University of Alabama.
I took my recruiting visit — and then never took another. It was just love at first sight between me and this program.
And it’s crazy to think about the journeys we’ve both been on since then.
As a competitor, I wanted badly to be a part of the dynasty that Coach Saban was building. I wanted to make my mark. I wanted to leave a LEGACY.
Was what happened in the 2018 National Championship Game bittersweet? Of course, it was — it was a humbling experience. It was tough, man.
But I am even tougher for it. I AM BUILT FOR THIS.
I understand that God put those obstacles and challenges in my life for a reason. He wanted me to feel the pain I felt for a reason. He wanted me to understand the importance of never losing faith — and of always staying true to myself. He had NOT brought me this far just to leave me there.
“This isn’t something you’re stuck in,” I’d tell myself. “This is something you’re going through.” And one thing I can promise you is that I’m better off for having gone through it. Everything I dealt with at Bama: I’m stronger for it. I’m wiser. I’m a better man.
And for that I have so many people to thank. People who’ve made a deep and lasting impact on my life, just from their paths crossing with mine. People who have helped me, trained me, or flat-out raised me. Or even just believed in me.
Thank you, truly.
I have graduated from the University of Alabama with my bachelor’s degree in public relations — and I couldn’t be prouder. This accomplishment means so much to me.
But the education that I received at Alabama goes beyond a degree. Coach Saban taught me the values and principles of business, as well as what it takes to be a great leader. My teammates taught me the importance of togetherness, brotherhood, and love. And this past season … it taught me a lifetime’s worth of lessons about how to deal with adversity.
Now, I’m an alumnus of the University of Alabama.
Now I’m Bama for LIFE — and that right there will never change!
But now it’s also time for me to start a new chapter in my story.
I’ve decided to take my talents to the University of Oklahoma, where I will continue my development as both a quarterback and as a student.
I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity, and I’m excited for the journey ahead.
One of the things that people always want to talk to me about is last month’s SEC Championship Game. They come up to me and say that it inspired them, or that they were rooting like crazy for me, or how they had been hoping all season that I would get another chance. They tell me how it was like a MOVIE, or that they’ve gotta make you a 30 for 30 now, you know, things along those lines.
But I just tell them back — that 30 for 30? You can bet on it. Only not anytime soon. Not yet. Because this story of mine…. it’s still just getting started. There are movie moments still to come.
Growing up, I never thought I’d get to where I am today as a 20-year-old. And I dang sure never thought I would have the power to positively impact so many people, and especially kids, across the nation like I do now. It’s a huge honor…. but it’s also a huge responsibility. Not everyone in this life gets the chance to be a role model. And that’s why I’m on this mission: to be the best player, leader, and man that I can be. I know everything will unfold according to God’s timing. I am blessed to be where my feet are; my trust is in His hands.
So, to my about-to-be family in Norman, I truly appreciate you for bringing me on board. Y’all don’t know me yet……… but just for now, to introduce myself: I’m a motivated coach’s son from the Eastside of Houston, and I love to play ball.
And to my Bama family, once again, THANK YOU — for everything. It’s been a great three years. I’ll love you until the end of time!
John 13:7 [“Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."]
/s/ Jalen Hurts
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“Baker Mayfield: Born in Texas, transferred to Oklahoma, won the Heisman. Kyler Murray: Born in Texas, transferred to Oklahoma, won the Heisman. Jalen Hurts: Born in Texas, transferred to Oklahoma … “ -- Twitter.