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Throwback Thursday: Jalen Hurts - from Alabama star to backup to the NFL's highest paid player...

Jalen Hurts excelled at Alabama and Oklahoma (Image credit: Keytron Jordan/CBS Sports)

Just five years ago, Jalen Hurts' blossoming college career hit a bump in the road as he was replaced as Alabama's starting quarterback by Tua Tagovailoa. This week, the 24-year old Philadelphia Eagles quarterback became the highest paid player in NFL history, signing a five-year contract extension worth an eye-opening $255million, $179million of which is guaranteed. What a story.

Hurts' college career began in 2016 when he was recruited by the University of Alabama as a four-star prospect. As a true freshman, he quickly established himself as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide, leading the team to a 14-1 record and a losing appearance in the College Football Playoff Final against Clemson. He threw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns while rushing for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns, earning him SEC Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honours.

Hurts led Alabama to an 11-1 record in 2018, but was benched in the CFP Final (Image credit: USA Today)

In 2017, Hurts led the Crimson Tide back to the CFP Final, this time against the University of Georgia. Despite struggling early in the game, Hurts led a second-half comeback that saw Alabama score 26 unanswered points, culminating in a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.

Having quarterbacked Alabama to the national championship game for two consecutive seasons, Hurts found himself in a tough spot in 2018. During the national championship game against Georgia, Hurts was replaced by then-freshman sensation Tua Tagovailoa, who led the team to victory. Tagovailoa then took over as the starting quarterback in 2018, leaving Hurts to play a backup role, and a promising career in the balance.

Hurts revitalised his career under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma (Image credit: AP/Jeffrey McWhorter)

The following season, he transferred to the University of Oklahoma, and quickly established himself as the starting quarterback. In his lone season with the Sooners, under Lincoln Riley's watch, Oklahoma won the Big 12 championship and Hurts threw for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for 1,298 yards and 20 touchdowns. His final college football game ended in a loss to Joe Burrow's all-conquering LSU in the College Football Playoff semi-final game.

With a career total of 9,477 passing yards, 80 passing touchdowns, 3,274 rushing yards, and 43 rushing touchdowns, Hurts entered the 2020 NFL Draft, taken in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles. In hindsight, this seems an absolute steal.

Taking over from the struggling Carson Wentz, Hurts' leadership skills, evident from his freshman year at Alabama, began to impact a then-average Eagles team. He started ten games in his rookie season and became the unquestioned starter in the 2021 season. His ability to run and extend plays gave the Eagles an additional dimension. Hurts threw for 2,466 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 784 yards and added 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Jalen Hurts is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL (Image credit: The Independent)

2022 was Hurts' breakout season. The 6'1", 233lb signal-caller led the Eagles to a 14-1 record, scoring 35 total touchdowns, just six interceptions and threw for 3,701 yards. The Eagles' run continued to Super Bowl LVII, where he ran for three touchdowns and passed for another, unfortunately losing a heartbreaker, 38-35.

As an impressive career, shaped by setback and resilience, continues and we approach the 2023 NFL Draft, I wonder how many teams regret passing up the opportunity to select Jalen Hurts three years ago?

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