NORMAN — Jalen Hurts accomplished an awful lot in his three years at Alabama.
He quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to an SEC Championship as a freshman, then came off the bench to rescue the Tide for another SEC crown last season. He was named the SEC’s offensive player of the year in 2016, went 26-2 as a starter — well, you know.
But on Wednesday, before ever playing a game at Oklahoma, Hurts pulled off something he never could in Tuscaloosa.
He was named team captain.
“It’s probably the biggest thing, to me, up to this point,” Hurts said after practice. “I know at Alabama, I played a significant role on a lot of their teams there in my three years. But not being a captain — being a captain was always my goal, and really one of my dreams.
“At this home, with this family, my teammates voting me captain, I’ve only been here … eight months. It’s a blessing. It’s kind of surreal. I’m happy.”
Hurts, sophomore center Creed Humphrey, senior defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and junior linebacker Kenneth Murray all earned captain accolades for the 2019 season, just four days ahead of the Sooners’ season opener on Sunday night against Houston.
Hurts was officially named the starting quarterback last week. But in reality, Hurts won over his teammates shortly after he arrived and began throwing around iron in winter workouts. Wednesday’s news just legitimized what everyone has been saying about the Sooners’ new quarterback.
“If you’re a quarterback, it’s like your responsibility to be a leader, not just talking but by example,” said receiver CeeDee Lamb. “And he’s done a great job coming in here leading by example, learning the new stuff, the nuances, being accepted by us as a brother and he’s done a great job. …”
“You see things from afar,” said co-offensive coordinator and o-line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, “and he’s the type of kid you would expect him to be, you know, going through the situation he went (through) at Alabama. That’s not easy for anybody, and he handled it well. And you can see the type of kid he is, how he handled it there.”
Hurts now shoulders a new burden — leading Oklahoma to its fifth consecutive Big 12 Conference championship and a return to the College Football Playoff — but it’s one he will embrace as a captain, elected by his teammates.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “I think they respect me enough to put me on that pedestal and put me in that position, so now I’ve got to go do my end of it and that’s lead ‘em.
“Pretty big deal for me.”
Hurts spoke to the media for six minutes between meetings. His answers were brief, some rehearsed, several repetitive, and he is clearly focused on getting back on the football field. The captain news and all that comes with it seem little more than pleasant distractions from the task at hand.
“It’s just something I hold near and dear to my heart. It’s special,” he said. “But, captain, whatever, it’s time to play.
“Ready. Ready to play.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.