This Saturday, the Cotton Bowl Stadium plays host to the greatest rivalry in College Football. The Red River Showdown sees the Oklahoma Sooners take on the Texas Longhorns. However, the tale of this year’s rivalry game may have started some 252 miles south east of the famous stadium. For there lies Channelview, an oil refinery suburb of Houston, Texas. It is also the home town of Jalen Hurts.
After 3 years spent at Alabama, Saturday night represents a homecoming of sorts.
He returns to Texas in the form of his career.
The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback has taken the world of College Football by storm this season. In guiding Oklahoma to a 5-0 start, he has seemed like an unstoppable force. Whether it has been with his arm, leading the nation in passing yards per game, or with his legs, 2nd in quarterback rushing touchdowns, Jalen Hurts has dominated the opposition.
It’s the sort of dynamic performance that he used to put on as a Texas high school student.
From Texas to Tide…
It was clear from a young age that Jalen Hurts was destined to be a star. At Channelview High School, he also had the perfect role model to guide him through to college. His father, Averion, was his coach throughout his high school career, helping to mould the young man both on and off the field.
On the field he shone. As a sophomore at Channelview, he was a second team all-district selection. In his junior year, he was named the District 21-6A Overall MVP. In his senior, and final, year, Jalen Hurts put up the sort of numbers that would become synonymous with his name throughout his college career. They were numbers that match his particular skill set to this very day.
2384 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. 1391 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns.
A true dual threat quarterback.
In fact Hurts was the #3 dual threat quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class, and a 4 * recruit. After being heavily recruited, it was announced in June 2015 that Jalen Hurts would play his football in Alabama for the Crimson Tide.
Hurts ripped up the Alabama record book practically from the minute he set foot on the field. He supplanted starter Blake Barnett by the second game of his freshman season. In doing so, he became the first true freshman starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide since 1984.
His abilities as a true dual threat quarterback came to the fore.
He became the first quarterback under Nick Saban to have more than 11 rushing touchdowns in a season. His 36 total touchdowns set a program record. With 954 rushing yards, he smashed the record for program rushing yards by a quarterback. He had multiple games with 120 yards or more, a feat never achieved before by an Alabama quarterback. No quarterback had thrown for 300 yards and rushed for 100 yards in the same game for Alabama.
Until Jalen Hurts.
He twice led the Crimson Tide to the College Football National Championship Game. However, it was his benching at halftime for Tua Tagovailoa during the second, that led to Jalen Hurts downfall at Alabama. It was the catalyst to his eventual transfer to Oklahoma.
Two paths to a destiny for Jalen Hurts
Around 110 miles north west of Channelview, you’ll find College Station. It lays claim to being the most educated city in Texas. It’s also home to the Texas A & M football program. It could have so easily been home to Jalen Hurts.
Nearly every single football program in Texas wanted to recruit Hurts as he came out of high school. He held unofficial visits, or participated in camps with, TCU, Houston, Texas Tech amongst others. He could just have easily been lining up on Saturday in the burnt orange of the Texas Longhorns as the crimson and cream of the Oklahoma Sooners.
However, it was Texas A & M from his home state that recruited him the hardest, that wanted him the most.
The Aggies had a plan for Jalen Hurts. Some 4 years later it turns out it was exactly the same plan that Oklahoma had for him.
For Texas A & M had a quarterback named Kyler Murray, who was planning to transfer out of College Station. The Aggies realised that Jalen Hurts would be the perfect replacement for the skill set that Murray was leaving them without. They made a concerted effort to gain his commitment but failed.
Hurts went to ‘Bama, and Murray went to Oklahoma. Behind an award winning offensive line, and with a renowned head coach in Lincoln Riley, Murray thrived. He took home the Heisman Trophy on his way to the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Now, Jalen Hurts is the one reaping the rewards in Norman, Oklahoma. He’s replicating the form that made him such a freshman sensation at Alabama.
In last year’s Red River Rivalry game, Kyler Murray came up short and the Sooners fell to the Longhorns in a thriller.
Can Jalen Hurts give the Sooners the edge on Saturday, and help reclaim the Golden Hat for Oklahoma?
That would be quite the homecoming.
Feature Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports