May 15, 2013

Hurd finds motivation from family, wins and breaking the mold

HENDERSONVILLE --- He has more than 5,000 career rushing yards, nearly 70 touchdowns on the ground and a bevy of individual Tennessee high school football records.

That's all a blur.

The losses? Those stick with Jalen Hurd. Always have.

"First loss ever, Davidson Academy. Fifth grade. I do not remember how many touchdowns I scored; probably around one or two. But I know we lost, and I was devastated after that," said Hurd, the No. 15 player nationally by and highest-ranking member of Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class. "It's true I remember all the losses. Where I was the starting tailback through last year, we had five and none this year. So around six or seven."

Wins, not 100-yard games or record-breaking 3,300-yard seasons as Hurd engineered along the way to leading his Beech High School to the state's 5A championship a year ago, are the perpetual target.

"Definitely, that's one of my main goals. I always want to do good, but I always want my team to win," Hurd told during a recent visit to his school.

Hurd hasn't always been a break-the-mold ballcarrier, but he has lined up in the backfield since he started playing football at age 6.

"I did always play running back, and what's funny is that I've always been kind of a shorter guy. Around ninth grade, I shot up five or six inches and I had been growing ever since. Now I've kind of evened out," said Hurd, whose 394-yard, seven-touchdown effort at Tennessee Tech Nov. 30, 2012, also established new gold standards. "See, probably the earliest game was when I was around 8 or 9 years old and it was the state championship against Gallatin. What's funny is that I was playing Darian Banks, the guy that's still at Gallatin now. That's why I kind of remember that. We did win that game."

Banks, now a 5-9 defensive back with mid-major scholarship offers, and Hurd will meet again this fall on the football field. Their teams play the third week of the season in the second of Hurd's final five home games. What Hurd, a quietly good ping-pong player, is working toward for that game and beyond is to continue carving his own identity.

He doesn't aspire to blend the power running of Arian Foster with the speed of Chris Johnson. Sure, Hurd watches other running backs.

But his goal is to be his own person --- and perhaps show in so doing that taller players on the football field don't have to be wideouts, quarterbacks or defenders.

"I want to be something different. Because in my mind, I've never seen a 6-4 running back running a 4.3. So that's where I want to be at," Hurd revealed. "I'm not sure where I'm at right now; I'm not sure if I'm running a 4.3 right now, but that's where I want to model my game. Just something that people have never seen before."

The same core people, as well as the additional fans who have begun to flock to Hurd's games, home or away, always see the same Jalen Hurd. Hard working, humble and, above all, dedicated to his family.

"Really, I just look at the life of just my mom [Tara]. My mom has been with me my entire life, and so has my dad. But just seeing her and seeing her work all the time, you want a better life for her and you want to be able to give them something they've never had," Hurd said of his inspiration. "You've experienced something that you never have to work like that and just support your family.

"She kind of just takes pride in [the recruiting opportunities], and you know, my whole family does. I'll have a little section in the stands every week and they'll all have orange on and it will say 'Hurd' on their backs and it's awesome looking up there and seeing all my family. A lot of kids don't have that. I'd say constantly around 20 to 25. If it's a big game, it's a lot. My little family base is pretty good."

Which is why Hurd talks team goals in 2013 instead of individual ones. Only former Vol Troy Fleming and current Kentucky Wildcat Dy'Shawn Mobley had manufactured a 3,000-yard rushing season before Hurd joined them last season.

Hurd could be the first in the state with two such campaigns, and another 3,000-yard season would also move him into second place in the state's annals behind Fleming for career rushing yards.

If Hurd is aware these goals are attainable, he doesn't acknowledge. He doesn't want any more losses on his high school resume, expects another 5A title and relishes what the journey holds.

"See, I'm not really sure [about individual goals]. I just want to win another state championship, and I want to stay safe. I don't want to have any injuries this year. But you know I was thinking about that the other day, and it really makes me sad because these are the best experiences I'm going to have in my life," Hurd said. "Just being able to live under a roof with my mom and have her taking care of me and just having a great time in high school and being out there with your best friends on the field. When you get to college it's a whole different experience. You're a grown man. You're all for yourself and you've got to do it on your own, and I'm looking forward to that. So I'm going to definitely enjoy this last year of high school.

"Really, I just give it all to God. I couldn't do anything without Him. I think about it; I pray about it. And I think I handle situations pretty well because of him. Just staying humble and not being arrogant about things. When someone asks how was your game, I'm not going to be like 'Oh, it was all me. No, it was my team. They helped me through that game.' You always handle situations through Him."

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