Alabama and Georgia met 327 days ago on this very same field, in a national championship game so big it required overtime for the Crimson Tide to win. Saturday in the SEC championship, with a spot in the College Football playoff on the line, the rematch went Georgia’s way right up until the moment it didn’t.
The backup this time was Jalen Hurts, who came in for an injured Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts was incredible as soon as he took the field, none more so than on the final drive of the game as he scored a 15-yard rushing touchdown with just over 60 seconds to reclaim the lead.
Hurts was 2-of-2 passing for 35 yards on the drive and finished the game 7-of-9 passing for 82 yards and a score. That passing touchdown tied the game at 28-28 earlier in the fourth quarter.
“I’m so proud of this guy for what he’s done this year, I can’t even tell you,” Nick Saban said after the game of his former starter who was relegated to backup duty in this same building 11 months ago. As Saban spoke glowingly of his quarterback, his pride was clearly visible.
The big takeaway for me is this:
Jalen Hurts could’ve transferred and been a starter at just about any program in the country, but he didn’t. When adversity struck, he didn’t tuck tail and run. He stuck it out. He showed massive amounts of maturity and that’s something we lack in society today. Not just in sports. In everyday life people struggle with adversity and the first thing that comes to mind is to simply quit. Jalen Hurts is now an SEC legend for being a fighter, not a quitter.
Who would’ve ever thought that after being benched in the National Championship game a year ago for a true freshman, that this kid would have the opportunity to prove everybody wrong. A guy everyone, including myself, doubted. Tua is obviously the better quarterback when healthy, but that’s not the point here. That is irrelevant. This is about more than football. This is a story of redemption. This is a story that I believe every parent in America should share with their children, fans of sports or not. It’s a huge lesson that I believe could change the way we operate in society when things don’t go our way. You keep fighting, you don’t quit, you stay loyal to your teammates and you wait on your turn to prove everybody wrong. I can only imagine how Jalen Hurts and his family felt as the confetti rained down on him in Atlanta, Georgia after stunning the Georgia Bulldogs in their backyard. It gives me chills.
After watching that clip below, you see what this kid has been through. He has played in just about every game this season after Alabama put the game away, but that doesn’t amount to what he did Saturday. I don’t think it was ever about playing time for Jalen. It was about proving his coaches and fans that he CAN win the big games. In a game that mattered. In a game that he didn’t expect to play in. A game he was forced to play in. Jalen Hurts came in and rallied a team that was down 14 points heading into the fourth quarter. A truly heartwarming story, but more of a life lesson. Jalen Hurts has now etched his name into college football history and will forever be remembered for being the textbook example of maturity and loyalty.
My goosebumps have goosebumps. Time to build Jalen Hurts a statue in Tuscaloosa. pic.twitter.com/H7788J2rHc
— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) December 2, 2018