Monday night’s nail biter National Championship game between the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia was filled with highs and lows for every player on the field, but perhaps no one experienced them quite like Alabama starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was benched by coach Nick Saban in the second half in favor of freshman Tua Tagovailoa.
Having led his team to two championship games and 25 wins in his two seasons at the helm, no one expected Saban to bench the 19-year-old Hurts. But trailing by 13 points and having done very little offensively in the first half, that is exactly what Saban did. Despite what must have been a crushing moment for the competitor in him, Hurts handled the situation with grace. Rather than sulking on the sideline, Hurts was part of every huddle, cheering his teammates on and offering unwavering support to Tagovailoa.
In his first drive of the game, the freshman QB threw a touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III, and Hurts was the first player on the field to congratulate his backup.
First person to congratulate Tua — Jalen Hurts. pic.twitter.com/YAbc7cPaer
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) January 9, 2018
After the game, Hurts patiently spoke with reporters on the field, once again proving his sportsmanship.
— Ben Hutchison (@WISNBennyHutch) January 9, 2018
When asked how he felt about handing over the reigns in the second half, Hurts told ESPN that he was proud of Tagovailoa’s effort.
“He was going to step in and do his thing,” Hurts said. “We have a lot of guys in [the locker] room that play really well, and he stepped in and did his thing. He did his thing for the team.”
Hurts said that he offered Tagovailoa the simple advice to “play your game,” and he is confident the freshman will go on to do amazing things.
“He’s destined for stuff like this. He’s built for stuff like this. He has that it-factor,” Hurts said. I am so happy for him and for this team… It’s unbelievable. I dreamed about this.”
(H/T: For The Win)