When Jalen Hurd left the Tennessee Vols in the midst of the 2016 season, he was viewed by a lot of folks as a “quitter”.
And it’s easy to understand why — Hurd was on pace to set school records at Tennessee, but he left the team after the Vols lost to South Carolina, a game UT should’ve won that was the team’s third straight loss.
Hurd ended up transferring to Baylor after the 2016 season. After sitting out the 2017 season, he’ll make his debut as a redshirt senior wide receiver for the Bears.
In a recent tell-all interview with Bleacher Report, Hurd revealed the real reason he left Tennessee. And whether or not you agree with his reasons, it makes a lot of sense.
Essentially, Hurd knew that playing the running back position at the next level wasn’t a good decision for his career. He told Bleacher Report that after doing some research, he realized what a short life span running backs have in the NFL (which isn’t exactly news to anyone who follows football). After realizing what the grind of playing running back in the SEC was doing to his body, Hurd approached the Tennessee staff about playing more on the perimeter.
The Vols’ coaching staff didn’t go for the idea and continued to use Hurd at a high rate in the running game.
After suffering a concussion and playing through a nagging ankle injury, Hurd decided he had enough. He took himself out of the South Carolina game and never played again for Tennessee.
On the surface, it certainly looked like Hurd was a quitter. But Bleacher Report quoted one former Vols assistant coach as saying “”If any guy gave his all for that program, it was [Hurd]. He played hurt. He played hard. He did everything he was asked. We started 5-0, then lost three straight, and everyone wanted a fall guy. Guess who that guy was?”
There’s no doubt that Hurd gave his all on the field when he was at Tennessee. He was as hard of a runner as I’ve ever seen in the SEC. He played behind a porous offensive line and took a beating while carrying the Vols’ offense on his shoulders (along with quarterback Josh Dobbs).
If not for Hurd, the Vols don’t reach a bowl game in 2014 (him and Dobbs were almost solely responsible for Tennessee’s fourth quarter comeback against South Carolina in 2014. If UT doesn’t win that game, they don’t go bowling). Tennessee also probably doesn’t win nine games in back to back seasons without Hurd. If anything, Butch Jones should send Hurd a thank-you note for the success he enjoyed from 2014-2016.
In retrospect, given the events of the 2017 season (Brett Kendrick’s scary concussion situation, the lies about Shy Tuttle’s injury), it’s easy to see that Hurd was exiting a bad situation before the rest of us realized it was a bad situation.
I agree that Hurd probably could’ve handled his exit with a bit more grace, but he did what he felt he had to do. It’s hard to fault a kid for doing what he thinks is best for his future.
Featured image via USA Today