Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts is Prepared to Win
By Dave Spadaro

The young Eagles Quarterback says the way to win is to prepare to win. It’s a mental game. You succeed on the field (and off) when you positively manage every moment. It’s a message he shares with teammates, fans and the kids he speaks to. Most of all, it’s a message he tells himself. It’s what he believes: You prepare to win. Every time.

Jalen Hurts wants to talk. He wants to tell you what’s really on his mind, what is truly important to him on this day when the sun is shining brightly and there are hundreds of Philadelphia Eagles fans chanting his name – “Ja-LEN, Ja-LEN, Ja-LEN” – just a couple of weeks before the team’s 2022 regular season is to begin. He doesn’t want to go down the rabbit hole of the usual line of questioning – “Jalen, where do you think you’ve most improved this summer?’’ – and in fact he doesn’t want to talk football at all. 

The Eagles’ third-year quarterback, in his second full season as The Guy at the game’s most important position, wants to talk about the kids chanting his name and the kids that he spent time with at a football camp a month prior. 

“These are young people who are looking for something to motivate them. Every young person that I meet I try to leave them with a message, something they can carry forward with some hope,” he says. “I know what it was like for me as a kid. I had sports. I loved playing sports. My father was a coach, and that was something I woke up to every day with excitement. I couldn’t wait to get on the field and play with my friends.” 

“I don’t see that with many kids today. Some of them – they just need someone to tell them they are special. Truly special. Because I believe that, I believe that there is ‘special’ inside everyone, but you just have to find it and believe it. That’s where it all starts. You have to believe in yourself and a lot of the time if you hear it from one person, it can make all the difference in the world.”

This is a mental health issue for Hurts, and he thinks the best way to combat it is to fill youth with positive reinforcement and words of encouragement. He grew up in Channelview, TX just outside of Houston and life was all sports, all the time. Well, sports and academics and family, and Hurts excelled in all as he matriculated his way to the NFL through the universities of Alabama and Oklahoma.

He has been here for 3 seasons now, and we don’t know much more about him. He doesn’t talk about his personal life. He doesn’t give it up in any provocative way in interviews, relying on tried-and-true clichés when he talks about football – “We’re hungry and we don’t plan on missing any meals,” “What you put in, you get out,” “I’ve always had a get-better mentality,” – and he has never, ever been one to attract attention off the field. Family? So important. He sends his grandmother a kiss each game, and she responds by kissing the television screen watching from her home in Texas. It’s the sweetest thing ever, really.

Hurts is as solid as they come, in the most boring way possible.

“He’s all ball,” Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni says. “He’s very much like me in that way. Football and family. That’s one of the ways we connect, because Jalen and I can talk ball all day and all night long. There are times when something pops into my head and I text him, and no matter what time it is, he gets right back to me. It’s uncanny. We think along the same lines, and for me, as a head coach, to have that connection with my quarterback, it’s great.”

“I just love the guy. He’s here to win for his teammates and for the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Hurts isn’t one to reveal himself, even to his teammates. They see him as the unflappable leader of the football team, the quarterback who has been put in the region’s media and fan spotlight since the day the Eagles used a second-round draft pick on him in 2020. It was a widely discussed move and seen as a challenge to then-franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. Turns out, the speculation came to fruition. Wentz never regained the form he showed when he played as an NFL MVP candidate in the Super Bowl season of 2017, and by the end of Hurts’ rookie season, Wentz was on the bench and Hurts finished out the year as the starting quarterback.

A few months later, Wentz was traded to Indianapolis and Hurts ascended to the starting position.

“Honestly, he came in and handled his business and hasn’t changed since then,” Eagles Center Jason Kelce says. “He’s an incredibly mature guy who is the same person every day. He doesn’t go up and down. He’s a flatliner, he’s confident in his approach, and that’s what you want in your quarterback. I don’t think people truly understand the pressure that position faces. It’s an obsession, but Jalen doesn’t feel any of that. He’s his hardest critic, so what does it matter if he’s criticized? He’s far more critical of himself than anyone else can be.”

“The guy is a stone-faced player when he’s on the field, and when he’s off the field, he’s one of the guys who relates well to people and who leads by example. If he wants to say something,” Kelce says, “you better listen because it means something.”

Hurts takes pride in being unflappable. It comes, he says, from his youth, when he played under his father, the high school head coach. A 4-star recruit, Hurts played at Alabama and compiled a 25-2 record before he was famously replaced at half-time of the 2017 season’s college football championship game against Georgia. Hurts returned to Alabama the next season as a backup quarterback before finishing his collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting that season, taking the Sooners to the college football playoffs.

“All that I’ve been through in my career, it’s helped shape who I am. You have to put emotions to the side. That’s why you won’t see me losing my cool. Ever. It just doesn’t happen,” Hurts says. “Keep your focus and do your job and accomplish the goal, which is to win every time you are out there. That’s the goal. That’s the mission.”

He’s 24 years old but has the wisdom of a player many years older. Hurts admits to being “an old soul,” wearing it as a badge of accomplishment.

He’s in the hot seat for the Eagles, who have put pieces around him – Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown and 2021 first-round draft pick wide receiver DeVonta Smith – to build an offensive line that is one of the game’s best, forming a running game that led the NFL last season. This year, they are expected to have a potent offense. In his first full season as a starter last year, Hurts accounted for nearly 4,000 yards of offense and 26 touchdowns as the Eagles reached the postseason. At 23, Hurts became the youngest quarterback in franchise history to start a game in the postseason.

Now? He wants more.

“Once you get a taste of it, you want it all,” he says. “It’s about staying the course, understanding that you are going to have ups and downs. How are you going to handle those moments? That’s what I tell my teammates. That’s what I tell kids when I speak to them. We can’t win every time we’re out there, but we can prepare to win every time. If you conduct yourself that way, you will be able to handle the times when things don’t go your way. I truly believe that success is achieved first by how we mentally handle each moment.”

“Have confidence. Believe in yourself,” Hurts adds. “If you don’t believe in yourself, who is going to believe in you?”

 


Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

October 2022
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