Jalen Hurts Was Benched But Gained Respect And National Championship

As Crimson Tide fans flooded the bars in the streets of Tuscaloosa and partied throughout the night in celebration of another Alabama National Football Championship, Jalen Hurts kept a smile on his face, showing the greatest of class. But the sophomore quarterback was in the midst of the most bittersweet moment of his young, illustrious career.

Under the guidance of his dad Averion Hurts, a prep head coach at Channelview High School near Houston, Jalen was gorged with football knowledge and it translated to his exploits on the field and his eventual ascension to starting quarterback for the most lit football factory in college athletics.

Hes gone 25-2 as a starting quarterback and was playing in his second straight national championship game. Success found him early and often, so he probably wasnt emotionally prepared for being benched, down 13-0 in the National Championship game and watching Tua Tagovailoa, a true freshman, lead Alabama to a shocking 26-23 victory over SEC rival Georgia in overtime.

Tagovailoa, a prized QB recruit from the island of Hawaii, grabbed the moment, sealed the deal and immortalized himself in Alabama and college football lore by throwing a 41-yard pass to DeVonta Smith for the Dub.  It was simple math. Hurts 24 plays accounted for just 94 yards, but Tagovailoa 46 plays accounted for 278 yards and the win.

It was a legendary story for the freshman who came out of nowhere to have a March Madness style effect on Alabamas victory. It was the sixth career national championship and second of the playoff era for Nick Saban.

Sabans sixth title ties him with legendary Alabama coach Paul Bear Bryant for the most championships in college football history. The situation worked for everybody but Hurts, who smiled and spoke glowingly of his replacement and being part of a National Championship club, but you know this isnt how he scripted it.

He was supposed to be behind center when Bama posted their historical, overtime drive. Instead, he was standing on the sidelines as a cheerleader, yanked from a game that he was built to play in, told that he just wasnt good enough to lead Alabama to victory on this night.

Sports teaches lessons that apply to real life; drama, unpredictability, change. And it reveals character. Thats the captivating stitch that has allowed college and pro football to sew up the TV revenue game.

Football is addictive because the season is short and every game matters. Nothing is guaranteed and the great coaches play for the moment, not the future. Saban has high regard for Hurts and he believed that Hurts was the guy to lead them into the promised land. Criticisms of Hurts’ passing ability didnt hurt his stock in Sabans eyes – until Monday night’s Championship game. And in those games, real coaches do real things.

All Hurts has left at his point is self-evaluation. He can use this slap of reality to improve in the areas that he is lacking as a quarterback. He could have sat and talked on the sidelines, but he kept the team in great spirits, supported his replacement and was a positive contributor to the moment, putting his personal defeat aside to display the class and character that his parents instilled in him as a kid.

We saw the true Jalen Hurts on Monday night. Despite his ineffectiveness on the field, he showed the world why hes been the leader of Alabamas team and the starter. Every person faces a crossroads in life and Hurts moment of truth is now. When the emotions of the moment and hyperbole and honeymoon dies down, he will come to camp trying to get his job back.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.