It seems hard to imagine this week being scripted any better.
Two cities that don’t normally have much of a shared history are front and center this week when it’s all about Houston versus Philadelphia.
The Astros, of course, are in a heated World Series battle this week with the Philadelphia Phillies. H-town is all in on winning “This One for Dusty Baker,” but clearly the Phillies have a much different agenda with Games 3, 4 and 5 in Philly this week.
While much of the world will be fixated on the World Series, there will be another big Philadelphia vs. Houston game taking place that’s a little more personal when Channelview product Jalen Hurts leads his 7-0 Eagles into NRG Stadium for a nationally televised Thursday Night game against the struggling Texans.
It’s the first time Hurts returns home to play in front of his family and friends. And his timing couldn’t be better.
The third-year quarterback has the Eagles rolling as he is putting together what looks like an MVP-caliber season.
“I think going back home and playing in Houston has always been a dream of mine,” Hurts said. “I never had an opportunity to go play in Reliant, now known as NRG, as a kid. I spent a lot of time in the Houston Texans facility…as a child. I have a lot of memories at that place. I think it will be exciting.”
Hurts, of course, went away to college, making his first stop at perennial power Alabama before establishing himself as a legit NFL prospect at Oklahoma.
But everything Hurts is about is still right here in Houston. His parents, Pamela and Averion Hurts are still here in Channelview. In fact, Averion, who was his high school coach at Channelview, is still coaching the Falcons.
What’s pushing Hursts to thrive to this day are the lessons that were instilled in him by Pamela and Averion as a kid. He is the last person to pat himself on the back, in fact Hurts is quicker to point out his own flaws than to discuss what he is doing well on the football field.
Hurst learned to be this way through what he calls his formative experiences, presumably as a kid growing up on through these first three years playing quarterback in a city that hasn’t always appreciated him.
“I think I’ve endured a lot,” he said. “I think I’ve been fortunate to go through things that have built character in me, that have made me a stronger individual, a stronger man. It’s allowed me to understand the importance of competition, the importance of seeing something through and the importance of working for what you want.
“I’ve always prided myself on that and that’s something that I saw my dad do as a kid,” Hurts continued. “I saw how he handled being a coach, I saw how he uplifted the people around him, how he was a service to the high school kids. I saw how my mom did it. I saw how everybody did it and I was just always trying to learn from the people around me.”
That he has. Hurst comes into NRG Stadium for the first as a kid who has his team sitting not just atop the NFC East but really on top of the NFL during this first half of the season.
The Eagles’ success has everything to do with Hurts’ growth as a leader and as a well-rounded football player. His evolution into becoming a more complete player was on the display last weekend when Hurst, who is known for keeping drives alive with his running ability, only ran the football twice while throwing four touchdown passes in a 35-13 dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He has been labeled, as many of the African-American quarterbacks in the NFL seem to be, as a dual-threat quarterback. But Hurts is quick to brand himself a triple-threat quarterback, adept at “killing them” with his legs, arm and mind.
“Because you get to a point where you get different looks and they try to get you but you just want to try to be ready for all of those looks and have an answer for it,” said Hurts, who has thrown for 1,514 yards, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions while running for 293 yards and three touchdowns so far this season. “That’s a testament to the preparation, to the people I have around me. It’s just an uphill climb.”
And if you think the 2020 second-round draft pick, who the Eagles were ready to part with this past offseason for either Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson, is believing he has arrived with the spectacular run he has the Eagles on, think again.
“Honestly, I feel like there is no arrival,” Hurts said. “You will never get to the point where you say you have arrived. There is no arrival, only the journey. And I have embraced that journey and will continue to do that and just try to climb.”