The eyes and hopes of 50 million fans rested on the arms of Brock Purdy and Jalen Hurts – two quarterbacks who were never meant to meet.
Hurts, the son of a football coach, describes himself as an “old soul”. A quiet and humble personality, he exudes poise and maturity on the field and sports throwback fashion off of it.
Hurts has been lauded since high school for his intelligence, speed and strength. Quarterbacks aren’t normally the fastest player on the team. They certainly don’t normally squat 230 kgs (500 lbs) in high school. Hurts graduated a four-star recruit and committed to the college football powerhouse, the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
Bock Purdy began his high school career with subpar numbers, including a handful of terrible performances. It wasn’t until his junior year that he emerged as a star, ultimately named Arizona’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior.
Purdy too is poised and cerebral on and off the field. But great high school players are a dime a dozen. Purdy entered Iowa State University as a three-star recruit and the team’s third-string quarterback.
Under the brighter lights of college football, the two quarterbacks’ talent would shine, as well as their faith.
Hurts was the first freshman quarterback to start a game for Alabama in 32 years. He dominated, leading the Crimson Tide to a 14-0 record and a trip to the national championship. Leading by three with six seconds remaining, this happened …
Hurts had plenty to celebrate, winning the competition’s offensive player of the year award and landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But it’s hard to imagine the pressure of a situation with headlines like this:
Fortunately, the headline was right and Alabama did win the National Championship the following year. Unfortunately, Hurts was benched halfway through the game after falling behind 13-0. Tua Tugavailoa stepped in to lead a comeback victory, then kept the starting job, causing Hurts to transfer to Oklahoma over a year later.
In Oklahoma, Hurts became a superstar and a household name among football fans. He reflected on his time at Alabama, “I understand that God put those obstacles and challenges in my life for a reason … He wanted me to understand the importance of never losing faith … He had not brought me this far just to leave me there.”
During this time, Brock Purdy was struggling to earn a much less prestigious role. But when Iowa State’s starter got hurt and the backup floundered, Purdy took over and never looked back. As a junior, he led the Cyclones to the most wins in their 125-year history and eventually graduated with 32 school records.
“Every time I play – no matter what happens – I want others to see God through my actions”, Purdy told Sports Spectrum during his breakout year. “Even when we lose I point to God and thank him for the opportunity. Everything happens for a reason; it’s all a lesson from the Lord. It’s a game, it’s not my life.”
“I used to put football in front of the Lord,” Purdy said. “I would pray for him to keep me safe and give me a good game, but it isn’t about that. Now I pray that I would make the most of the opportunity he’s given me and, win or lose, that I would put him first … The bottom line is for me my identity is in Jesus.”
Entering the NFL draft, one scout wrote that Purdy was “not a very good athlete” with a “limited arm”. Despite his college success, he was taken by the San Fransisco 49ers with the 262nd pick of the draft, which also happened to be … the final pick of the draft. With success everywhere he had been, Purdy’s story proves that becoming a starting NFL quarterback is nothing short of a miracle.
In response to being drafted last Purdy said, “I’m very thankful that I got drafted.”
“The bottom line is that my identity is in Jesus.” – Brock Purdy
Again the third man up, Purdy was stuck in the shadows of Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. ‘Jimmy G’ had one of the highest win percentages ever. Lance was an elite prospect taken with the third pick in the draft to replace Garoppolo. On a team stacked with quarterback talent, Purdy had earned the annual nickname for the final pick in the draft: Mr Irrelevant.
Jalen Hurts’ rookie year had been far from irrelevant, with analysts drooling over his game-changing potential. Then a promising second season ended in the playoffs with an embarrassing blowout loss to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. The criticism grew louder: Hurts was exciting, but his unique style would never lead to success on the biggest stage.
So, entering the 2022-23 season, the narrative around Jalen Hurts was doom and gloom and there was no narrative around Brock Purdy.
At the start of the season, Hurts told CBS Sports, “I’ve just matured and realized that God is everything and He’s worthy of praise. You have to put him at the centre of everything that you do. That’s what I believe. All my spiritual wisdom – all of my wisdom as a whole – comes from him.”
Hurts took the league by storm, leading the Eagles to a 14-1 record, becoming a finalist for the Most Valuable Player award and single-handedly sustaining both of my ‘fantasy football’ teams. His wisdom and stature also became the talk of analysts and players around the league.
“I love the fact that Brock Purdy is so open about his faith in Jesus Christ.” – Rev. Franklin Graham
Meanwhile, Purdy again got his chance when the starter and backup went down. He immediately became the only quarterback ever to beat Tom Brady in his first career start. Asked whether he had always played with a certain fearlessness, Purdy replied, “Yes sir, I have. I believe in the Lord. I trust in him and I go out there and just play.”
Four wins later, Purdy entered the playoffs undefeated. With convincing wins in the first two rounds, the 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
Reverend Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, posted on Facebook, “In addition to being a super-talented football player, I love the fact that Brock Purdy is so open about his faith in Jesus Christ. I haven’t rooted for the 49ers since Joe Montana, but I’m sure pulling for them now.”
I’ve never pulled for the 49ers (and I never will), but I get where he’s coming from.
With the best record in the league, the Eagles got a bye in the first week of the playoffs. They celebrated by demolishing the New York Giants 31-7 and moved on to the NFC Championship, where they would compete for a trip to the Super Bowl … against Brock Purdy’s 49ers.
The highly anticipated game began with Hurts making spectacular plays, driving the Eagles down the field and scoring.
After everything that led to this moment, surely we were in for a classic battle between the two God-honouring quarterbacks. How would the embattled 49ers star respond? Could he become the first rookie ever to quarterback a team into the Super Bowl, doing it without ever having lost a game
Purdy only lasted three minutes. A crushing hit and a torn elbow ligament knocked him out of the game, along with any hope for the 49ers. After his backup went down too, the Eagles rolled to another 31-7 victory.
In the losing team’s post-game press conference, Purdy only had one complaint: “I’m just so sad for the older guys. I want it for these guys, the older guys, more than anybody.”
In the winning team’s post-game press conference, Hurts shared his favourite Bible verse: John 13:7.
“Jesus replied, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’”
Hurts and Purdy both seem to thrive on this philosophy: I trust God and he is in control, whether it looks like it or not. He has not brought me this far just to leave me here.
So, as Purdy processes losing the most important game of his life, he seems relatively unphased.
It’s hard to overstate the scale of the Super Bowl. Last year’s game was watched by over 200 million people.
On Monday, Jalen Hurts plays the most important position in the biggest U.S. sporting event of the year. If you need someone to cheer for, he’s not a bad choice. He might win or he might lose. He might be able to make sense of his circumstances or he might not understand.
Whatever happens, the trust and identity of Jalen Hurts, just like Brock Purdy, is in Jesus.
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