At 4:20 a.m., Jalen Hurts isn’t concerned about the outside noise.
It’s at this exact moment that Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” blares from Hurts’ phone, which is intentionally left several feet away on his nightstand.
This forces the Eagles’ starting quarterback to rise from his bed to fetch his phone. For Hurts, it’s all about getting from Point A to Point B, and focusing on everything that happens in between. Considering the time, he typically is never in a rush to actually turn off his alarm. Hurts genuinely enjoys singing the repetitive lyrics aloud.
For a 23-year-old who preaches a “rent is due every day” mind-set, Hurts emphasizes process.
“It’s a little positivity to start the day,” Hurts said in an interview Tuesday with The Inquirer. “I’m all about positivity, man.”
Raised as a coach’s son, Hurts is rooted in a spiritual background. After he wakes up to Ayers’ classical hit — which was released 22 years before he was born — Hurts reads Scripture and offers his own devotion with his family in mind. This has been his morning routine for the last 1½ years, since being selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft by the Eagles.
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Hurts is an active learner, and he radiates positivity. If you need a clearer picture, just imagine him singing in unison with Ayers’ smooth voice before sunrise.
“My life, my life, my life, my life in the sunshine. Everybody loves the sunshine,” Hurts sings to himself at the beginning of each day.
Forty minutes is precisely enough time for Hurts to complete his early-morning tasks before his scheduled 5 a.m. workouts. These sessions can be rigorous depending on the day. Throughout the offseason as he trained between his native Houston and Philadelphia, he’d rotate among throwing, running, and lifting.
In Texas, he trained with popular NFL trainer Bob Stroupe. When Hurts returned to Philadelphia before training camp, he linked with right tackle Lane Johnson and personal trainer Gabriel Rangel. In an effort to build on chemistry, Hurts also helped organize offseason throwing sessions with several of the Eagles’ wide receivers.
“Most days, Jalen would be done working out by the time I’d wake up,” Johnson said. “His work doesn’t go unnoticed. He puts in a tremendous amount of work.”
Hurts’ work ethic, paired with his mind-set, has played a major role in getting him to this point of his career.
He has dealt with the spotlight and adversity on numerous occasions. Hurts led Alabama to back-to-back national championship games, but he was infamously benched for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during halftime of the 2018 title game. Tagovailoa directed the Crimson Tide to an epic comeback victory, highlighted by his game-winning touchdown completion to … then-freshman wideout DeVonta Smith. Alabama then permanently shifted away from Hurts, with Tagovailoa claiming the starting job.
Hurts’ presence in the quarterback room? Suddenly gone.
However, he handled the situation with poise and grace that not many other 20-year-olds would have exuded in the same moment. The following season, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, where he won a Big 12 championship and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting.
In multiple ways, Hurts is able to apply that experience to the present day. He took all of the snaps with the first-team offense in training camp, but first-year coach Nick Sirianni didn’t officially name him the starter until last week. Hurts also applied blinders when reports involving the Eagles’ interest in Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson surfaced.
“Chatter — what chatter?” Hurts said in response to a question about the Watson reports during his first news conference at the beginning of camp. “I’m above it all. Control what I can here. That’s what I’m doing. I’m going to be the quarterback of this team.”
Hurts continued: “I’ve said so many times that rent is due everyday. I truly mean that and have that mentality. But for a guy like me, I hold myself accountable to go out there and play at a high level every time I touch the field. There’s not going to be anybody who holds Jalen to a higher standard than Jalen.”
Sirianni wanted to see Hurts “take the reins” in camp and Hurts has done so accordingly. But what about life outside football?
In just his second season, Hurts has already locked up multiple partnerships. Last week, he was named a brand ambassador for athletic retailer Eastbay and the cover athlete for the company’s longtime catalog. Hurts also recently teamed up with FedEx to represent the “new generation of NFL quarterbacks who deliver both in the air and on the ground.” On Tuesday morning, Hurts launched a new commercial promoting the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Awards, which fans can vote for weekly at NFL.com/FedEx.
These are major off-field moments for Hurts, who’s constantly remembering the process of each task, each moment, each opportunity.
“As a kid, you grow up and you always see — I remember Michael Vick’s commercial with the roller coaster,” Hurts said. “The different commercials with LeBron and the different promotions of themselves, all those types of things. It’s cool to have those types of opportunities, maybe not as extreme, but opportunities right now, and I definitely want to take advantage of the right ones.”
Furthermore, Hurts appreciates his partnership with FedEx because the company is donating $4,000 weekly to support needs-based scholarships at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCUs have been a major influence on the Hurts family. Hurts’ uncle attended Prairie View A&M, while his older brother, Averion, attended Texas Southern.
Hurts says he wouldn’t rewrite any part of his story, but the Black quarterback deeply admires the strong tradition forged by HBCUs.
“It really would’ve been nice to play for an HBCU and get that experience,” Hurts said. “It means a ton to me knowing I had family members that went to Historically Black schools. I really admire Deion Sanders and how he’s making a difference with his platform. We continue to try to balance that out, the education and playing field between HBCUs and regular universities. It’s a great deal for us.”
Before continuing with his preparations for the season opener this Sunday at Atlanta, Hurts takes a final moment to retell a story. Just a day earlier, Sirianni walked into the team meeting at the NovaCare Complex and casually approached Hurts like he does every other day. Hurts greeted his coach and dapped him up.
As the two embraced, Sirianni responded to Hurts: “What’s up, captain?”
The Eagles later announced Hurts was voted as one of six team captains for the 2021 season.
“Players have voted for it because they’ve got the pulse of the locker room, that’s for sure,” Sirianni said. “No surprise to me. They’ve been great leaders since I’ve gotten here, and they’ve been great leaders in the past. So really excited for [Hurts] to lead our football team. That’s a big responsibility when your peers vote you as a captain.”
The Eagles are eager to see how Hurts performs in his sophomore year, but they’re also geared with enough draft capital to make a significant move in the offseason if they’re not satisfied. For now, Hurts is slated to become the franchise’s third-youngest opening-day starter. When he steps onto the turf at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a few days, Hurts will don the captain badge on the upper right chest of his No. 1 Eagles jersey.
Is that a privilege or responsibility?
After taking a moment, as if he was mulling what to say, Hurts offers his brief but impactful final response.
“It’s a blessing to represent this team as a captain,” Hurts said. “It’s a blessing. It’s an honor for me. It’s a great thing. I know the work that goes into it. Simply put — captain or not — I want to lead this team. I want to win games. I want to put on for Philly.”