In a winter of change, Eagles are learning that Jalen Hurts is no snowflake – NJ.com

Chess Study

Doug Pederson, playing a foolish and insulting game for the second week in a row, might have needed 24 hours to name the Eagles starting quarterback for next Sundays matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, but the rest of the world didnt.

Anybody who watched the 33-26 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, was sure that Jalen Hurts is a) more talented than Carson Wentz; b) more exciting than Wentz; c) cheaper than Wentz; and, d) a lot easier to root for -- after ESPN reported that Wentz wants out of Philadelphia if he doesnt reclaim the starting job.

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On Sunday, Hurts gave fans a glimpse of the future: 24-for-44 for 338 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was sacked six times, but didnt turn the ball over even scooping up his own fumble on the run and completing a fourth-quarter pass with the kind of steely cool that Philly hasnt seen since Joe Frazier walked through Muhammad Alis jab and knocked him on his butt in the 15th round.

Hurts ran for another 63 yards and a TD and finished with a 102.3 passer rating.

And had tight end Dallas Goedert held on to a laser that hit him in the mitts in the end zone on a ridiculous throw on third-and-21 from the Cardinals 22 with 1:55 remaining, fans would have been toppling the Rocky statue like it was a Civil War relic and replacing it with Hurts likeness.

The kid is electric and his juice is flowing throughout the rest of the lineup -- just ask NBC analyst and former head coach Tony Dungy: This is a different team with Hurts at quarterback, he said Sunday night. They play with a lot more passion.

Fellow analyst Chris Simms added: He is dangerous. Hes much faster than I thought he was, I cant lie. Hes been very impressive turning the corner and making plays with his legs. [He] looks at the first read and if he doesnt like it, he goes to what he does best, which is running the football.

And then theres the emotional issue: Wentz might have wilted because the team drafted Hurts in the second round last spring. A city that fancies itself tougher than any other in the country will not indulge pouting crybabies who back down from challenges.

Former mayor Ed Rendell once mocked the city and the NFL for postponing an Eagles game because of a blizzard. Fans who throw snowballs at Santa have no tolerance for snowflakes the human kind anyway. And if the Eagles can draw any conclusion from watching Hurts since he has taken over the job, its this: He is no snowflake.

Knowing this day was coming, NJ Advance Media spoke to those who were around Hurts when his self-confidence was germinating. Theyre betting that his unwavering drive and mental toughness, which already has separated him from Wentz, will be crucial when Hurts officially has been named the franchise quarterback.

Everything happens for a reason

Jalen Hurts -- a freshman recruit -- forged a bond with University of Alabama walk-on quarterback Josh Palet during their time together in 2016.AP

Hurts knew he was going to be the Crimson Tides starting quarterback when he first stepped foot on the University of Alabama campus in 2016.

The freshman was confident not cocky and determined to make his mark immediately.

That brash, laser-focused attitude miffed some of his fellow QBs, but not senior walk-on Josh Palet. The two QBs became fast friends and frequently confided in one another.

Palet would listen to Hurts lofty goals and quietly laugh them off as delusions of grandeur. Little did Palet know that Hurts wasnt just talking the talk, he was predicting the future.

He told me Im going to start, and this was right when he came in, Palet told NJ Advance Media. I said, Freshmen dont start at Alabama, especially a guy like you, who doesnt know the plays, and he (responded) Im going to start. Im thinking to myself, This guy is nuts. I told my dad, This guy Jalen is crazy. And, lo and behold, halfway through our first game, hes the quarterback.

Hurts has been determined to be a starting QB throughout most of his life. His father, Averion, is a high school football coach in Channelview, Texas, and Hurts has had leadership ingrained into him since he was a youngster.

Hurts has a relentless drive, a captivating personality and a leadership approach that is hard to fake.

Palet noticed those qualities immediately. Hurts, at just 18, was leading men who were a handful of years older -- and destined for the NFL -- like he had been in Tuscaloosa for years.

During the second game of the season against Western Kentucky, he became the first true freshman QB to start for Alabama since 1984. He set the record for most passing yards by a freshman in his starting debut.

He just always had the mentality that This is my team, even when it wasnt, Palet said. And then it eventually became his team.

A handful of years removed from his freshman season at Alabama, Hurts still keeps the same mentality, the same unwavering focus and the same unshakable demeanor. Palet isnt surprised by his late-season surge with the Eagles.

When Carson Wentz started struggling, I was like Dude, Ive seen this before, (Hurts) is going to take this job, Palet said. Jalen is always confident. Things are never bad in Jalens head. Things are never going in a bad direction. He always thinks this is happening for a reason.

A coffee bean

Motivational speaker Damon West and then-Alabama QB Jalen Hurts pose for a picture. (Photo courtesy: Damon West)

Hurts led Alabama to the National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers as a true freshman in 2016. He took them back to the big game in 2017 but was benched in favor of Tua Tagovailoa, who eventually led the team to an overtime victory over Georgia.

Despite being demoted in front of the entire country, Hurts wasnt rattled. He became an avid supporter and engaged backup to Tagovailoa. Then, when it was clear that Tagovailoa had the starting job in his grasp, Hurts transferred to the University of Oklahoma to play for head coach Lincoln Riley and reinvent himself.

During Hurts stints with Alabama and Oklahoma, he listened to the words of motivational speaker Damon West, a former University of North Texas QB who received a life sentence after being found guilty in relation to a string of home burglaries that funded his drug addiction.

While incarcerated, West learned the analogy of the coffee bean from a fellow inmate who wanted to give him perspective on the rigors of prison life. The other inmate, who West called Mr. Jackson out of respect, explained that jail was a pot of boiling water and that an inmate could be a carrot, egg, or a coffee bean.

When a carrot is placed in hot water, it becomes soft and vulnerable. When an egg is put in hot water, it becomes hard and coarse on the outside, and ultimately its shell becomes a deterrent. But, when a coffee bean touches hot water, it turns the liquid into coffee and changes the environment around it.

Hurts sat in the front row during Wests presentation at Alabama in 2017 and took vigorous notes. By the time West and Hurts were reunited at Oklahoma in 2019, the guest speaker realized the QB was exactly the type of example he tries to highlight in his speeches.

I told the guys in the room, This guy right here is a leader, this guy is a coffee bean, Watson told NJ Advance Media. I said to Jalen directly, in front of everybody, The poise of how you handled what you went through is something everybody should study for how they handle their situations in life because you went through it and you came out with your shoulders up and your head held high, you looked for the next opportunity and thats what life is all about.

Hurts has kept that message with him throughout his ups and downs in football. Following the Week 14 upset win over the New Orleans Saints, NJ Advance Media asked Hurts about his unwavering confidence and resolve, and Hurts brought up Wests analogy.

The thing with me, I always try to never get too high, never get too low out there, Hurts said. Try to do my job to my best abilities. Doing that, impacting people, bringing people up around me. Always take somebody with you and create that camaraderie, that community. And all those things, all those characteristics, theyre contagious. Just trying to be a coffee bean.

West has watched Hurts journey since he was benched by Nick Saban in the 2017 National Championship Game. He saw his rebirth at Oklahoma and his early challenges in Philadelphia.

Throughout that journey, West says Hurts has changed the environment around him due to his determination, grit and unflinching attitude.

Jalen Hurts is the epitome of the coffee bean because the coffee bean is always looking for the opportunities in adversity, West said. He handled his adversity with grace and class. Hes gone from being someone who studied about the coffee bean into being the coffee bean that everybody studies.

No fear of failure

Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts prepares for the NFL Draft with Elite Mindset Coach Seth Makowsky. Part of that training includes chess strategy. (Photo Credit: Bryce France via Seth Makowsky)

After throwing for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns at Oklahoma as a senior, Hurts wanted to further his development at QB ahead of his jump to the NFL.

He hooked up with QB trainer Quincy Avery in Atlanta in preparation for the draft and Avery introduced him to Seth Makowsky, an Elite Mindset Coach based out of Los Angeles.

Makowskys training involves using chess as a vehicle to help his clients think faster on their feet and identify new strategies at a moments notice. Makowsky uses a chessboard to simulate formations, areas of attack and potential areas of weakness.

Makowsky has worked with Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, one of Hurts NFL role models. Like with Watson, Makowskys first visit with Hurts was supposed to last a few minutes but ended up taking up a good chunk of the day.

Two hours later, Jalen was still locked in and wanted more, Makowsky told NJ Advance Media. Its just so clear that hes committed to training his mind with the same vigor that he trains his body. Hes just on a mission to get better.

Hurts came into the training without any knowledge of chess, so Makowsky was forced to teach him from scratch. But, Hurts lack of experience didnt seem to matter, as he immediately wanted to face off against his trainer without much of a tutorial.

What I loved about Jalen is that he wanted to compete right away, without any apprehension or any fear of failure, Makowsky said. He wanted to just be thrown in the fire and he was able to learn from any of the mistakes he made. He was just laser-focused on improving.

Makowskys training wasnt just a scene out of The Queens Gambit.

The trainer worked with Hurts on the field as well, looking to build the connection between the board and the turf. Thats when the light bulb turned on for Hurts.

When Jalen saw the connection of how this made him better, he fully bought in, fully engaged and it was the only thing that mattered at that moment, Makowsky said. There were no distractions, there was no checking phones, he was laser-focused like he is on the field when he wants to improve.

Makowsky noticed early on that Hurts attention to detail wouldnt allow for distractions or negativity. Hes so immersed in improving that anything outside of positive influence doesnt really appeal to him. Its not worth his time.

Thats why hes was able to overcome the obstacles thrown in his way throughout his college career. Its also why hes been able to grab his opportunity with the Eagles by the wings and help the much-maligned offense fly again.

Hurts isnt a carrot that will be smushed under pressure or an egg that will hide behind a tough exterior.

Hurts is wired to be a coffee bean because he wont allow himself to fall victim to his environment. Instead, he will do all he can to change his surroundings for the better.

So, bring on the rumors, turn up the adversity and welcome the QB competition because Hurts can handle it all. Hurts has been here before, and he knows he can overcome it.

After all, thats how Hurts got to where he is today.

He doesnt let any nonsense get in the way of his mission, Makowsky said. Theres such a clarity in what his mission is because theres no moment that is too big for him.

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In a winter of change, Eagles are learning that Jalen Hurts is no snowflake - NJ.com

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