Jalen Hurts reflects on doubters, journey to Super Bowl

Jalen Hurts can join rare air on Sunday if he beats the Chiefs to become just the third quarterback to ever start for a national championship-winning team in college and win a Super Bowl as a starter.

The Eagles quarterback’s path to possibly earning both feats was certainly unusual, if not incredible. He was benched at halftime in the 2017 title game despite leading Alabama to a 12-1 record that season. Tua Tagovailoa led Alabama to a comeback victory that night to win the national title and following the 2018 season, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma.

Five years later, Hurts believes that his mindset helped him get through that tough January night to become a Super Bowl starting quarterback.

“I was going through a really tough time in college, going through things that no one else was going through,” Hurts said at Super Bowl Opening Night. I knew I was going through it for a reason. That’s what I doubled down on. I believe faith without work is dead. So, while you have faith, you can’t not be doing anything. 

“I had a lot of faith and I put a lot of work in. I never stopped believing in myself and what I could be. I had limitless possibilities.”

Following a 2019 season that saw him named a finalist for the Heisman, Hurts was picked by the Eagles in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. With Carson Wentz already in town, he wasn’t expected to be a franchise quarterback for the Eagles. That sentiment remained after Wentz was traded following the 2020 season and even through the 2021 season, in which Hurts started and led the Eagles to the playoffs.

Hurts isn’t shy to confront the opinion that he wasn’t the Eagles’ long-term answer at quarterback answering the season.

“It’s something that I embrace. It’s something that I embrace,” Hurts said. “I embraced all the opinions. I embraced all the hate, the doubt. And I didn’t let it define me, and I won’t start letting it define me now.”

Hurts’ mindset is part of the reason why he’s set to help make history on Sunday. Hurts and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be the first Black quarterbacks to go head-to-head and start a Super Bowl. 

Hurts called it “historic.”

“You think about all the rich history in this game, and to be a part of such a historic event, a historic moment, it’s special. There’s been so many quarterbacks before me, including Pat, helped lay the foundation for me to have this opportunity. Seven African-American quarterbacks to start in this game and now the first time to have two go head-to-head. That’s uplifting the next generation of quarterbacks, that 4-year-old or 5-year-old kid back in Houston, back in Philly, back in Texas, Louisiana and wherever across the world that regardless of what someone says or might have an opinion about you, you can do it. You can do it too. 

“I value the platform that I have and I’m sure Pat does as well, so we just want to inspire the next people.”

Hurts will actually be the second Black quarterback to start a Super Bowl for the Eagles. Donovan McNabb started for Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX against the New England Patriots.

McNabb has mentored Hurts through the years and was the first person to reach out to his dad after he was drafted in 2020.

“His influence, his experiences, Mike [Vick’s] experiences, and Randall Cunningham’s experiences and being able to talk to them about some of these things with this city,” Hurts said. “Philadelphia is a very special city and I think that’s something that’s helped me this year.”

Donovan McNabb reached out to Jalen Hurts’ dad after being drafted by the Eagles

Donovan McNabb reached out to Jalen Hurts' dad after being drafted by the Eagles

Donovan McNabb reached out to Jalen Hurts’ dad after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hurts received respect from those on his side and those on the other side ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni compared Hurts to Michael Jordan, saying that he’s inspired by someone like the NBA legend and thinks Hurts has similar qualities.

“It’s the will to win of Jalen Hurts, it’s the will to win of Michael Jordan, that’s what I’m comparing that to,” Sirianni said. “Michael Jordan’s the greatest of all time … but it’s just [their] wills to win. I don’t know what Jalen Hurts’ ceiling is because he keeps setting a new standard to what his ceiling could be. Guys in my experience that love football, that are tough, that put in the work every single day with the work ethic that he has, reach their ceiling.”

Eagles running back Miles Sanders explained why he respects Hurts’ leadership skills: 

“Even Steven. You can’t really tell if he’s mad or happy. He’s one of those guys where if something crazy happens and you look at him and he’s cool then you’re going to be cool. He shows more than what he says. He talks a lot, don’t get me wrong, but I’m very observant and I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He just shows all his work. He shows it. It pays off, too.”

Eagles’ Miles Sanders on Jalen Hurts as a leader: ‘He shows more than what he says’

Eagles' Miles Sanders on Jalen Hurts as a leader: 'He shows more than what he says'

Philadelphia Eagles’ Miles Sanders on Jalen Hurts as a leader and how he shows more than he talks.

On the other side, Chiefs star defensive tackle Chris Jones is certainly impressed with how Hurts has played this season.

“Jalen Hurts this year showed he was one of the best dynamic quarterbacks, dual-threat quarterbacks, in this league,” he said. “Behind that offensive line and what A.J. Brown and what [DeVonta] Smith as his wide receivers, they’ve been one of the best offenses in the league. That speaks volumes for itself.”

Super Bowl LVIII will take place on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on FOX and the FOX Sports App.

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