10 Facts About Jalen Hurts (& Why Michael Jordan Is His Idol)

In 2022, Jalen Hurts was only 24. Yet he already had an enviable NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles. NBC Sports, noting that Hurts had only been the starting quarterback for the Eagles one season prior, was astonished at his quick ascent. "The biggest question hovering over the Birds entering [the 2022] season was about Hurts," Dave Zangaro wrote for the outlet, the question being whether Hurts would become the team's regular starter. "The Eagles won nine games with him [in 2021], but you got the sense they were winning with him, not because of him." Zangaro considered the matter settled early in the 2022 season, as Hurts showed marked improvement upon an already impressive skill set.

Hurts has been honing his football skills for years. As a college player, he was a finalist for the Heisman Memorial Trophy and made it to three national championships (per The Athletic). His talent, dedication, and rapid progression have not only served as a boon to his team — Hurts led the Eagles into the Super Bowl in 2023 — but have also drawn comparisons to notable figures in other sports. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said that Hurts' performance and aura reflected basketball legend Michael Jordan. Hurts himself has professed admiration for Jordan, and for Muhammad Ali. But parallels to his idols aren't all there is to Hurts and his career.

He did football and powerlifting in high school

Per The Athletic, Jalen Hurts was born in 1998. That he took to football is perhaps not surprising; his father, Averion Hurts, was the football coach for Channelview High School in Texas. According to Alabama.com, Hurts joined his father's team once he reached high school and quickly started attracting notice for his speed and throwing arm. The 7-4 season he led Channelview to his senior year was a school record. Alabama.com's Matt Zenitz volunteered a comparison to Johnny Manziel, though Averion preferred Russell Wilson as a model for his son.

With that kind of performance in high school, Hurts was a coveted prospect for college teams. On his own shortlist, per Alabama.com, were Mississippi State and Texas A&M. But after visiting the University of Alabama with his father, Hurts was won over by the strength of the football program and the space he would have for academics. He issued a statement through Elite11 in June 2015 confirming that he would be headed for Alabama.

Before committing to a college, and its football program, Hurts pursued another athletic activity. Throughout his time in high school, he competed in powerlifting. As a sophomore, he managed to squat 500 pounds. He reached 585 the following year, earning him a spot in a statewide meet. He kept up powerlifting when he first went to Alabama, though the football staff there put a limit on how much he was allowed to squat.

He was starting quarterback almost from the beginning of his college career

According to Alabama.com, Jalen Hurts left high school early to begin his time at the University of Alabama in 2016. Within his first week, he was called into service by the school's Crimson Tide team, replicating the performance of the opposing quarterback in practice ahead of a game against Clemson. While that didn't earn Hurts time on the field — he stayed behind when the Tide went to the game — it did win him early praise from head coach Nick Saban. Alabama.com predicted Hurts would be in the running for starting quarterback that year, though it gave odds to Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett.

By that September, things were moving in Hurt's direction, even as Saban avoided any official announcement. Per ESPN, he started for the Tide in a game against Western Kentucky and racked up some impressive stats, particularly compared to Barnett's efforts in a later part of the game. Hurts was only the third true freshman to play as starting quarterback for Alabama; before him were Harry Gilmer in 1944 and Vince Sutton in 1984 (per The TimesDaily).

Hurts distinguished himself in other ways during his freshman year. 247 Sports reported that he completed 75% of his passes in a November 2016 game against the Auburn Tigers. The two colleges are longtime rivals, with their match-ups informally named the Iron Bowl (per Alabama.com). Hurts' performance set a record for the competition.

He has a degree in PR and studied human relations at the graduate level

Jalen Hurts' major at the University of Alabama had little relation to football. Per the Montgomery Advertiser, he studied public relations. He impressed his teachers as he had impressed his coaches. Several years after Hurts' 2018 graduation, former dean Bruce Berger told New Jersey.com that Hurts was a diligent and respectful student. Berger was particularly impressed when Hurts, who had a greater measure of notoriety than anyone else in the class, shook Berger's hand in gratitude after a guest lecture. One teacher appreciated Hurts' manners and work ethic, while another predicted that he could have a bright future in PR after retiring from football.

But 2018 was also the year that Hurts was out as starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide team (per Alabama News). By the following year, he had transferred to the University of Oklahoma, as a graduate student studying human relations. Hurts was open about his reason for moving: get back in the starting role. "This can very easily be assumed as a business trip for me," he told The Oklahoman. "And that is true."

Hurts wasn't the only college ball player transfer once he reached the graduate level. The New York Times reported in 2019 that a growing number of promising athletes, many of them quarterbacks, were doing the same. The outlet also noted the pressure put upon coaches and sports programs to recruit such talent.

Was Jalen Hurts benched to throw a game?

In 2020, Jalen Hurts was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round. The choice struck many as surprising, according to New Jersey.com. At the time, Carson Wentz was the starting quarterback for the Eagles and well-regarded in the role. As talented as Hurts was, it didn't seem likely that he'd be put to much use. But within the year (per CBS Sports), Hurts was starting for the Eagles against the New Orleans Saints.

Hurts was quick to endear himself to fans and teammates by his skill. So quickly did he leave a mark on the team that, when head coach Doug Pederson benched him in the fourth quarter against Washington at the end of 2020, many on and off the field were shocked. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pederson was confronted more than once about the decision. The fact that the Eagles lost the game and performed badly under replacement quarterback Nate Sudfeld didn't help.

Though Pederson insisted afterwards that he aimed to win, his statements were inconsistent, and some speculated publicly that the move was a deliberate throw to improve the Eagles' position in the NFL draft. Between the controversy and rumors that Pederson was growing frustrated with the composition of the team and pressure from higher up, he and the Eagles parted company in January 2021 (per NFL).

The comparisons to Michael Jordan are widespread

Once he was recruited by the Philadelphia Eagles, Jalen Hurts ascended quickly. Only a year after he began with the team, he was named their starting quarterback (per the Eagles official website). The coach behind the move, Nick Sirianni, didn't stint on praise for his player. When an injured Hurts led the Eagles to a 38-7 victory over the New York Giants during the playoffs for the 2022 season, Sirianni compared his talent and leadership to that of Michael Jordan to ESPN.

Jordan's legacy in the sporting world still looms large even years after his active playing days, so such a comparison inspired commentary. Jeff Kerr for CBS Sports concurred with Sirianni. After calling Jordan history's greatest athlete, Kerr detailed Hurts' accomplishments, including leading the Eagles to wins in 18 out of 20 games where he was the starting quarterback. Hurts' public commitments to winning and developing the Eagles into a consistent performer were also considered to be traits in the Jordan vein.

On the other hand, Carlos Ramírez and Michael Allardyce of NBC both found the comparison premature at best. Like Kerr, Ramírez considered Jordan the greatest known athlete in history. But he told "Football Night in Chicago" (via NBC News) that putting anyone else on that level was absurd, and that it was unfair to Hurts to make a comparison that would put so much pressure on him. Allardyce added in his commentary that Hurts had yet to win a championship.

Jalen Hurts has long admired Michael Jordan

After Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni compared Jalen Hurts to Michael Jordan, the quarterback himself had a chance to share his thoughts on the basketball great. In a lengthy interview with The Athletic, Hurts made it clear that he was a fan. He kept a motivational poster of Jordan in his Eagles practice locker and said that Jordan's skill was groundbreaking. "His ability was before his time," Hurts said. "He was a relentless competitor. He overcame adversities. He just had an aura to himself. I've always admired that."

Jordan's prime years in the NBA came before Hurts was born, but that didn't stop him from becoming a favorite of Hurts. Before Sirianni made his comparison between the two, Hurts invoked Jordan's drive and attitude as a motivation in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. He's worn Jordan-branded clothes, carried around biographies of Jordan (per New Jersey.com), and discussed Jordan on The Adam Schefter Podcast.

As for Siranni's comments, Hurts told The Athletic that they were the coach's to make, not something he had much to say about. But in a postgame photo shared by the Eagles Twitter account on January 30, 2023, he seemed to deliberately evoke Jordan with his cigar and earring. And his interview with The Athletic ended with a simple, clear statement: "[Jordan] is an idol of mine."

He has an all-female management team

While Jalen Hurts was growing up, his mother juggled a job, school, and childcare (per Sports Illustrated). Hurts admired her work ethic. "I admire anyone who puts their head down and works for what they want," he said. "And I know women who do that daily, but they don't get the same praise as men — they don't get the praise that they deserve."

Hurts had a chance to see this inequality in the world of sports when he first sought representation. He was approached by NFL agent Nicole Lynn after his final college game and, after a few meetings, Hurts signed with her. But almost as soon as Lynn became his agent, she was disparaged by her male colleagues. One of them went to Hurts and said, "Hey, if baby girl doesn't work out, give us a call. She's sweet, but — you know."

His own potential having been put down before being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, Hurts resented Lynn facing similar disparagement. He felt a kindred spirit in her fighting back against those attitudes and wanted his younger sister, as enthusiastic about volleyball as he'd been for football, to have a positive example. Since becoming a professional player, Hurts has kept an all-female management team. And his contribution to the NFL's "My Cause, My Cleats" program promoted the Women's Sports Foundation (per ESPN).

His brother is also involved in football

Jalen Hurts isn't the only football enthusiast in his family. Per Alabama.com, his father Averion was the coach of Channelview High School and Jalen's own coach during his years there. But his older brother, Averion Jr., also had the itch to play ball. WIAT 42 reported that, as children, Averion Jr. took the lead in football practice. Both boys tagged along with their father to summer training while growing up, imitating what they saw. "Whatever I was doing, Jalen was right there behind me," said Averion Jr.. "And that kind of remained a constant factor growing up."

After graduating high school, Averion Jr. went to Texas Southern, where he continued to play ball. In his senior year, he was their starting quarterback. But by then, Jalen had become quarterback for the University of Alabama, complicating the family's efforts to support both sons. Their parents split duties, one of them attending Averion Jr.'s games while the other attended Jalen's.

After leaving college, Averion Jr. moved from playing to coaching. According to Fox 26 Houston, he is the quarterback coach and passing end coordinator at Summer Creek High School in Texas. Averion Jr. told the affiliate that he and his brother talk daily and have often been one another's best friend. "I know that I've had somewhat of an influence on him," he added. "I'm not gonna take credit ... but he's definitely learned a lot from me, as I have from him."

Jalen Hurts has a Christmas album and a namesake eagle

Sports stars can find their names on some unusual products, productions, and even pets. The Philadelphia Eagles count comedian Kevin Hart (pictured) among their fans, and he decided to mark the team's reaching the 2023 Super Bowl by buying one of their namesakes. He shared an Instagram video wherein he claimed to have spent $16.5 million on the bird. In the same video, Hart rechristened the mellow mojito a screaming eagle, and revealed that his bird's name was Jalen Hurts. The eagle opened its wings at one point when its name was called, to Hart's apparent fear, but it did not take a trip around the yard when told, "Fly, Eagles, fly."

Hurts himself has yet to lend his name to any manner of bird. But he did offer his name, and his voice, to a charitable endeavor for the Christmas season of 2022. Per New Jersey Stage, Hurts was one of several Eagles to appear on "A Philly Special Christmas," an LP created to raise money for the Children's Treatment Crisis Center in the team's home city. Organized by a quartet of players and music producer Charlie Hall, the featured performances were Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata, and Lane Johnson on "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." But Hurts and the others put in guest appearances elsewhere on the record.

He's open about his faith

Jalen Hurts has not stinted on gratitude throughout his career. He spoke about the dedication of his management team to Sports Illustrated and credited his parents for setting him on the right path in a press conference ahead of the 2023 Super Bowl (via Twitter). When he became a finalist for AP's NFL Most Valuable Player Award, he took pains to stress football's nature as a team sport (per the Philadelphia Eagles' official website). And Hurts has also been outspoken about his faith and its role in his life.

After graduating from the University of Alabama, Hurts penned an article for The Players' Tribune. Much of it was devoted to a reflection on his time with the school. But Hurts twice expressed confidence that the course of his life so far followed reasons set by God, and he ended the piece by referencing John 13:7. He made the same citation on Twitter when he was drafted by the Eagles.

Hurts spoke about his faith at greater length with CBS Sports in September 2022. "I've just matured and realized that God is everything," he said. "You have to put Him at the center of everything that you do ... I keep God in the center, I give Him all the praise, I lean on Him all the time." His passion was such that the interviewer suggested he become a pastor after retiring from the NFL.