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How Jalen Hurts’ unselfishness led to Alabama’s latest national championship

Kevin Jairaj - USA TODAY Sports

Upon walking into Bryant-Denny, the average person understands three things: history, sound food choices (on good days) and a spirit of excellence in knowing that it’s watching a college football program and its head coach doing all that is possible to accomplish perfection. 

Before each home game, a video is shown on the big screen that details the journey of the University of Alabama from Wallace Wade to Nick Saban. With each throw, acrobatic catch, powerful run, exceptional plays on defense and even success in the kicking game, the most iconic picture comes at the end – a photo of the team carrying Paul Bryant in its arms. 

Above the image, the word “CLASS” stands in all capital letters.  

Whether one has the talent or not to lead a team, supporting your brothers on the field goes a long way in defining leadership in the locker room and in terms of how fans view you.  

For sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, among the many negative, discouraging things he could have done after Saban decided to go with Tua Tagovailoa in the second half versus Georgia in Monday’s College Football Playoff national title game, he chose the path of humility. 

In today’s National Football League and some players of the collegiate ranks, ego and self-gratification mean everything. Hurts notched his 28th consecutive start when he arrived at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and despite him not being overly terrible, he could not generate productivity in the vertical passing attack.

His lone marquee play was a 31-yard run in the first quarter; however, a miss fire on a pass to Calvin Ridley (would’ve been a touchdown) and a missed 40-yard field goal attempt from Andy Pappanastos negated the Tide from getting points. 

A “Hurts So Good” hashtag was born following his confident freshman season, and though he would position the squad back in the playoff picture, Saban felt that he needed a little more to stave off Kirby Smart. It had to eat at him as he watched the Hawaiian Punch account for nine of Alabama’s 20 first downs (45 percent), five completions of which he stretched the field, a performance of 166 yards passing with three touchdowns – including the game-winner to freshman wide receiver Devonta Smith in overtime — but Hurts stood by him through it all. 

After moments of recognizing divine intervention, Hurts was the first person to embrace, encourage and show love toward Tagovailoa as the Tide mounted a comeback. 

The crimson and white confetti was thing of beauty and seeing former Tide players celebrate with Smith in the end zone was jubilant, but watching Hurts beam about his teammate in an interview with ESPN’s Marty Smith at the conclusion the contest is what this game is all about. 

“It has been like that all season with me and him,” Hurts said to Smith on embracing the five-star freshman gunslinger. “Today, he had the opportunity to step up and he did it. He stepped up for his team big. He balled out, that’s what he does. He is a ball player. I am so happy for him.” 

It will be interesting to see how the quarterback conversation turns out in the spring, but sheer appreciation that Hurts and Tagovailoa share for each other makes this program elite.  

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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