Nick Saban puts Jalen Hurts Alabama allegiance argument to rest: “He wanted to graduate from Alabama”
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One of Alabama’s most beloved football players in the Nick Saban era is in the Super Bowl.
Jalen Hurts had a tough road, but adversity prepared him for it.
He encountered success at the University of Alabama as a freshman quarterback, got benched for Tua Tagovailoa in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, embraced a backup role in the 2018 season, rescued the Crimson Tide to a 2018 Southeastern Conference Championship, and finished his collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma.
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Hurts needs one win to have Super Bowl Champion next to his name.
He has been involved in an interesting argument on social media about his allegiance to Alabama or Oklahoma. He claims both programs, but the fans want him to pick one. National media pundits, including Joel Klatt, say the Tide cannot claim Hurts.
Nick Saban put the allegiance argument to rest in an interview with the 33rd Team podcast with Bill Cowher.
*Nick Saban discusses Jalen Hurts at the 7:51 mark
Saban said Hurts ‘wanted to graduate from Alabama.’
“I think Jalen is defined by his commitment to his developing,” Saban said.
“If you understand the history of this player, he went 26-2 here as a starter, bought into everything in the program, and got beat out. He went through a whole season after being 26-2 as a starter of being a backup player. We had a conversation. … I always meet with the players to discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and what they need to work on. He wanted to graduate from Alabama so he was not going to transfer until he graduated. I said, ‘you need to work on becoming a better passer.’ You can’t just make plays with your feet. I want you to focus this season on reading coverages, being more instinctive with getting the ball out of your hands quickly, anticipating throws in windows, and understanding the passing game better. Focus on that because you want to play in the NFL someday, and that is what you need to improve on. His diligence to that daily. … He would not take off running in practice, made himself stay in the pocket and learn how to do that.”
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Coach Saban convinced Hurts to transfer to Oklahoma in 2019 over Maryland and Miami because he knew the Sooners had the best players and a coach (Lincoln Riley) that could continue his development for the National Football League.
Saban expressed how proud he is to see Hurts in the Super Bowl because he knows first-hand the journey he took to arrive. The 71-year-old also used a press conference Hurts had with the Philadelphia Eagles to end the allegiance argument.
“We are having a team meeting today because we are starting the 4th Quarter Program,” Saban said. “So, instead of me getting up and talking about the importance of the program, I’m taking Jalen Hurts’ press conference where he wears a t-shirt that says discipline, effort, toughness, pride, all these things. … It is our 4th Quarter shirt, and he’s wearing it in practice and camp. He is at a press conference talking about the importance of winning in the fourth quarter. So I said, ‘just give me that.’ I am putting that up on the board today. I am not going to say the importance of the 4th Quarter Program. I am going to let him do it for me.”
Saban has meant a lot to Hurts, but Hurts has meant a lot to Saban. The seven-time national champion claims the native Texan as an ‘Alabama player.’ Saban puts the argument to bed as he looks forward to cheering on his guy in Super Bowl 57.
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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 @CoachingMSmith.