If you think you’d handle being yanked from the biggest game of your life graciously, you’re probably lying to yourself. Not everyone is as big a person as Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (figuratively and literally—dude’s 6’2″ and 218 pounds of muscle).
Armed with a career 26-2 record as a starter heading into the Crimson Tide’s national championship tilt with the Georgia Bulldogs, Hurts was benched at halftime, having thrown for just 21 yards and led the team to a 13-0 deficit.
Enter freshman Tua Tagovailoa, and, well, you probably know what happened next.
“With the absence of a passing game,” said head coach Nick Saban of his decision. “… I just didn’t feel we could run the ball well enough, and I thought Tua would give us a better chance and a spark.”
Hurts, a sophomore, accepted the decision like a champion. He was almost always the first person to greet Tagovailoa upon his returns to the sideline.
We should all show as much class as Jalen Hurts did in this interview.
Roll Tide, kid. pic.twitter.com/lL50KcSbDf
— Due# (@JDue51) January 9, 2018
“‘Play your game. Ball,'” a grinning Hurts said postgame of his message to his fellow quarterback. “He’s destined for stuff like this. He’s built for stuff like this. He has the ‘it’ factor. I’m so happy for him and for this team.”
On Tuesday morning, Hurts confirmed what everyone knew: Of course he wanted to be in the game. But he wanted to be there for his teammates more.
“It was important for me to stay true to myself and be the person I am, and be the leader I am, regardless of the circumstance,” Hurts said in the Alabama locker room. “It’s my duty to do things like that, and do all those things genuinely. … As a competitor, of course you want to stay in there. But as a team player, and as a leader, you’ve got to do what’s best for the team. If that was best for the team, then I support it completely.”
It’s great that Hurts and Tagovailoa respect each other so much, because with the way the latter performed on Monday, he might be taking snaps with the first team come spring.
“Look, we have two good quarterbacks on our team, no doubt,” Saban said. “I think that we haven’t really made a decision about that, and it’s not imperative we make one right now. We’ve got two fine young men who really respect each other and have worked hard to help each other all year long.”