Tramel: Why Jalen Hurts' philanthropy shows the former OU quarterback has a rare 'generous spirit'
Jalen Hurts was in Oklahoma for barely a year. We hardly knew him, and that wasn’t just because of the limited time.
Hurts was quiet. Reserved. Determined, but stoic. Detached, almost. And not necessarily just with the media. Insiders say that was Hurts’ personality within the Sooner football team, too.
Nothing wrong with that. Takes all kinds. Not everybody can be Baker Mayfield, and we wouldn’t want them to be.
But it’s too bad that Hurts didn’t connect with more people. The more you learn about Hurts, the more you realize he is someone you should know.
Hurts, who just finished his rookie season as a Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, last week surprised a Pennsylvania family with a $30,000 check to put toward a new home. Hurts had encountered the family through Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a Philadelphia-area pediatric cancer charity. Hurts had helped fulfill Christmas wishes for Erick, a 7-year-old boy battling cancer. When Hurts learned the family of seven was living in a two-bedroom trailer, he decided to do more.
"He’s a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Clarke Stroud, OU football’s director of football operations, who probably got to know Hurts as well as anyone else while he was a Sooner. “He’s very private. He lets his actions speak for him. He doesn’t need to be the wildest in the room.”
Stroud pointed out Hurts’ public support for Rayden Overbay, a Yukon 12-year-old who was the victim of bullying, and noted that Hurts adopted (not in the legal sense) two disadvantaged students at Norman’s Lincoln Elementary School, working not through OU, but through the school principal.
“He’s got a real generous spirit,” Stroud said. “What he did for the kid in Philadelphia he did for kids here. He doesn’t need anybody to say, ‘attaboy.’ That’s just not who he is.”
Alex’s Lemonade Stand produced a video of Hurts delivering the check to the family.
“I’m really blessed to do this,” Hurts says on the video. “I’m really excited to meet this family. One thing that I like to do is be encouraging at all times. Uplift those around me. I just want to make an impact in the city of Philadelphia and this area.”
A couple of points.
First, this wasn’t money from a Jalen Hurts Foundation. No such organization exists yet. This apparently was all Hurts’ own cash.
Second, Hurts isn’t making huge money, not compared to most professional athletes. Not yet.
Hurts signed a four-year, $6.025-million contract, which included a $1.9 million signing bonus but only $2.8 million guaranteed. And while Hurts had his moments late in the season as the Eagle quarterback, his future is not secure. There is no guarantee or even great optimism that Hurts is headed for a big second contract.
A $30,000 gift would not be sacrificial to an athlete making $30 million a year. But a $30,000 gift from Hurts absolutely was sacrificial.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand said Hurts reached out to the organization to get involved.
Hurts already had connected with Boys Latin Charter School in West Philadelphia, chatting with students digitally and donating $10,000, and bucket hats for the football team, to the school.
All we knew about Hurts personally was that he came from Channelview High School, outside Houston, then went to Alabama, where the Crimson Tide fan base loved him, perhaps for the classy way Hurts handled his demotion from the starting quarterback job.
Transferring to OU two winters ago was a business trip. Hurts left Alabama not because he was enthralled with the Schooner or didn’t want to toss out all his crimson shirts. Hurts was looking for a championship-level program with a quarterback void. Could have been Michigan, could have been Clemson, could have been anywhere.
But it was OU, and the mission was successful. A Big 12 championship. A College Football Playoff berth. A second-place finish in Heisman Trophy voting.
We discovered he was a heck of a quarterback. But we really never got to know Jalen Hurts. Too bad for us.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.