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Jalen Hurts, Alabama Great

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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All that Jalen Hurts did at Alabama is underlined by how he did it.

Jalen Hurts has left Alabama. He will soon enroll at Oklahoma and, for the very team he completed the last pass of his Capstone career against, suit up as a Sooner this fall. New memories will ultimately follow, along with, perhaps, a new narrative. Hurts could, in a final year of eligibility, even compete against his former team as his new side's very last game was a loss to his old one. Regardless of what the future holds for the recently-named "Most Inspirational Player" for the Crimson Tide in 2018, Hurts already has a place in history. 

There is a bond, one between this player and this program, that will never be broken. The quarterback even titled a letter detailing his transfer "To My Alabama Family". Appreciation has been part of the process. From one crimson to another, many will always see Hurts in houndstooth. His efforts came with credentials and championships alike. Hurts has a bachelor's degree in public relations from the University of Alabama and a story that will long be shared.   

In three years in Tuscaloosa, Hurts compiled 5,626 passing yards, 46 passing touchdowns, 1,976 rushing yards and 22 rushing scores. He is second all-time at Alabama in total touchdowns and third in total offense. Hurts won a national championship, two SEC titles and went 26-2 as a high-profile starter. His individual accomplishments include being named SEC Freshman of the Year, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, First-Team All-SEC, Offensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl and being a finalist for the Manning Award.   

Hurts, as the numbers show, is a rare talent, a dynamic dual-threat signal caller. Bursting onto the national scene in 2016 with four touchdowns in his collegiate debut against Southern Cal, Hurts finished the season with 36 total scores and a number of program records. He very nearly led Alabama to a national championship as a true freshman, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with just over two minutes remaining before Deshaun Watson answered for Clemson with, literally, one second remaining.

This millennium, the only quarterbacks with a career pass efficiency rating of at least 148, 5,000 passing yards and 1,900 rushing yards are: J.T. Barrett, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Tim Tebow, Deshaun Watson and Hurts. 

All that Hurts did at Alabama is underlined by how he did it. Hurts was an unquestioned leader for the Crimson Tide, both when it was easy to be and, most notably, when it wasn't. For all of the big plays he made, the singular image for some will be the joy Hurts showed when Tua Tagovailoa, who replaced Hurts at halftime of the College Football Playoff Final two seasons ago, won the national championship with a now-iconic overtime throw. Taken out and undoubtedly disappointed, Hurts remained stoic and supportive as Tagovailoa played in his stead.

In what had to be a difficult night for him personally, Hurts, one of the nation's most accomplished players, was genuine and outgoing in his praise of Tagovailoa and the team. With his body language, demeanor, reactions and words, Hurts stood strong for values that define him and, quite frankly, helped Alabama win. A player of his stature remaining engaged as a sudden back-up came with an palpable, unifying energy. "Role Tide Roll".    

On the very same field, against the very same team, nearly one year later, the rotation came full-circle. With Tagovailoa, compiling All-American production for the season, hobbled and struggling, Nick Saban turned to his bench; there, another star quarterback got his chance. Hurts, entering the SEC Championship Game with Alabama trailing in the fourth quarter, pulled a Tagovailoa. It was Hurts who rallied the Crimson Tide back, coming in cold off the bench to, immediately, complete a 13-yard pass on a critical 3rd-and-12.

Hurts drove Alabama down the length of the field, tying the game with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy. After a failed Georgia fake punt, Hurts proved clutch once again. He followed a 19-yard strike to Irv Smith, Jr. on 3rd-and-8 with a 16-yard toss to Jaylen Waddle and, fittingly, a 15-yard run for the game-winning score. In a dramatic SEC Championship Game triumph, Hurts very much proved to be the difference. No playbook could hold this script. Had credits followed the post-game press conference, it would have made perfect sense.

We have seen Hurts be humble and Hurts be heroic. Both times, he was just being himself. 

Simply put, there haven't been many college football players quite like Hurts. And he still has a senior season to go. Hurts' move to Oklahoma marks a seismic shift. There, he will be the next-in-line for a Lincoln Riley attack that has led the nation in total offense two years in a row. Already-high expectations for the Sooners are now at a national title level. Baker Mayfield to Kyler Murray, Hurts will follow in the footsteps of back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, two quarterbacks who, interestingly, also transferred in.

A potential fabled finish already has a storybook start; Hurts' first game with Oklahoma will come against Houston, his hometown team.

There is plenty to look forward to with Hurts. Correspondingly, there is much to look back on as well. Hurts did it all for Alabama -- set records, win big games and even, still willing his team on, watch from the sidelines when the situation was such. Above all else, leadership is his legacy. Countless all-time greats have come and gone for the Crimson Tide; though Hurts leaves, much of what he did and represented will long remain.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports