Hurts makes the most of his return to Houston


HOUSTON — Jalen Hurts isn’t one for sentimentality.

He’s focused.

He’s driven.

He’s stoic.

But even he couldn’t deny what happened at NRG Stadium on Thursday night.

“I’m proud that my family got to see that today,” Hurts said. “I’m proud my dad got to see that and I know that’s special to him because my family knows the memories we’ve had with the Houston Texans.”

Hurts, 24, didn’t just return to his hometown as a professional football player. He returned as the starting quarterback of the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL and a true MVP candidate.

And his worlds collided a bit when he took the field for pregame warmups and the Eagles fans crowded near the tunnel began to chant, “MVP! MVP! MVP!”

In this stadium? Are you kidding?

The stadium where Hurts grew up watching the Texans. The stadium where Hurts always dreamed of playing after it never happened in high school. The stadium on the other side of Kirby Drive from where he watched Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt practice in OTAs and training camp. Where Johnson once gave Hurts his Air Jordan cleats.

Hurts returned to Houston this week to a hero’s welcome. He had countless family members and friends in the stands and they all got to celebrate who he was, is and is yet to become.

Yeah, it was pretty special.

“It hit me when I was riding in the city and I wasn’t going home,” Hurts said. “I was going to the hotel. It’s a special moment, it’s a special experience. I wouldn’t want to experience it with any other group of men.”

The Eagles won on Thursday night (of course they did) beating the hometown Texans 29-17. It wasn’t a perfect game — far from it — but Hurts completed nearly 78% of his passes for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns on a short week. He helped the Eagles improve to 8-0 for the first time in the franchise’s long history.

After all that, Hurts found himself in a crowded interview room, while most folks in the stadium watched the ninth inning of the World Series, answering questions about his homecoming in a way only he could.

“Personally, playing in the City of Houston and being the first time playing back home, it was a special moment for me personally,” Hurts said. “I think the job is still not done. I talk about there never being an arrival and there only being a journey. That’s something that I embrace, that’s something that this football team embraces. The journey of what’s ahead, the journey of daily deposits and daily improvement and daily efforts to be the best football team we can be.”

During the week, Hurts said nothing would change this week despite the trip home. It was a “business trip,” Hurts said.

His teammates couldn’t see any difference in their stoic leader, even if they knew how much this meant to him. His head coach Nick Sirianni couldn’t see it either:

“One thing I said to him before the game, I said, ‘Don’t let this be a distraction. You’re the last person I worry about with this but don’t let this be a distraction for you.’ And he had the same look on his face. It didn’t matter.”

Did Hurts feel any more amped up for this game?


“I knew I would have a lot of supporters here, which I value and appreciate,” he said. “I just want to make them proud, make the city proud, the City of Houston and the City of Philly, proud. Just controlling the things that I can.”

But before and after the game, Hurts got to spend some time with family and friends. And Sirianni said he finally got a chance to meet some of Hurts’ family. “Nice people,” Sirianni said. And that shouldn’t be surprising because long before he was an MVP candidate on the field, Hurts was a leader and as well-respected as any player in the Eagles’ locker room.

In a way, the way Thursday night’s game unfolded was perfect for Hurts. The Eagles won, but they left Houston with plenty to improve. Same goes for Hurts individually. But it was a fun night.

“To come home and get a win in this city is special,” Hurts said.

Even he can admit that.

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