Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts stands on the precipice of a remarkable accomplishment. Four years ago, he was replaced as Alabama's starting quarterback by Tua Tagovailoa. Now, he's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and a win away from a world championship.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who's seen every step of Hurts's rise, fall and rise, recalled advice he gave to Hurts at two key junctures of his career in a recent interview.
The first came ahead of the 2018 season, during which Hurts backed up Tagovailoa as Alabama won the SEC title and reached the national championship.
"We had a conversation. [Hurts] wanted to graduate from Alabama, so he wasn't going to transfer until he graduated," Saban said. "I said 'You need to work on becoming a better passer. You can't just make plays with your feet. So this whole season, I want you to focus in practice on reading coverages, understanding the passing game better, and being able to read and dissect what you need to do quickly'... And his diligence in doing that on a daily basis—he wouldn't take off in practice, he made himself stand in the pocket and learn how to do that."
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The second came after the season. Hurts, now an Alabama graduate, sought to transfer. He had Maryland or Miami in his sights.
"I said, 'You need to go to Oklahoma. They got the best coach to develop you as a quarterback. And you're going to be around the best players, so that's going to enhance your chances of having success.' He did that."
Under then-Sooners coach Lincoln Riley, Hurts was the Heisman runner-up and steered Oklahoma to a Big 12 title and College Football Playoff berth.
"He had a great year. I was worried about having to play him in the playoffs," Saban said. "And I can't tell you how proud I am of seeing this guy in the Super Bowl, only because I know firsthand what he went through to get there."