For Houston native Jalen Hurts, playing at NRG Stadium fulfills a 'dream'

The Philadelphia Eagles QB, a former Channelview High star, grew up going to Texans games and spending time around the team facility.

Photo of Josh Criswell

As he reiterated multiple times throughout his press conference on Tuesday, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts views his homecoming to Houston this week as a "business trip" and apparently nothing more. But he can still appreciate the moment.

Hurts grew up in Houston and starred at Channelview High School, where he was ranked one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2016 class by 247Sports. Hurts played his high school ball for his father, Averion Hurts, who's still the head coach at Channelview, before going on to enjoy a prolific college career at Alabama and Oklahoma that included various individual accolades, as well as a national championship with the Crimson Tide to cap the 2017 season.

Having sat within the confines of NRG Stadium numerous times as a fan growing up, but having never actually gotten the chance to play there, Hurts acknowledged that Thursday's game between his Eagles and Houston Texans will be a special moment for him.

"Going back to Houston, it should be fun. It's always been a dream of mine to play in NRG/Reliant Stadium," Hurts said. "I've spent a lot of time in that city. My childhood, growing up in Houston, going to watch the Texans play. Being in the Texans facility as a kid. 

"Going to watch high school playoff games in that city and not having the opportunity to ever play in it... I have an opportunity this week, and I'm looking forward to playing back home," Hurts added. "It'll be fun."

Hurts' godfather, Sean Washington, was once the Texans' director of player development. The Eagles' QB said he still holds fond memories from attending the team's youth camps, OTAs, minicamps and other events over the years.

"It was just an experience for me to be around the game and be around professionals," Hurts recalled. "I was always around high school athletes, but being around professionals, I remember Andre Johnson giving me his Jordan cleats, having stories like that. Playing against J.J. Watt now, but going to see him practice as a kid coming up... It's all fun memories. It's a part of my childhood."

Given Hurts' current status as an emerging NFL star—he is among the top three betting favorites to win this season's NFL MVP, and his Eagles are the only undefeated team left in the league and a win away from the best start in franchise history—he was asked which Bayou City football figures he looked up to in his early years.

"It was definitely Vince Young," Hurts admitted. "I watched Steve McNair a lot, but Vince Young—watching him at Texas, hearing the name around Houston, playing at Houston Madison—it was him. He was a hell of a player, did great things at all levels, and he's definitely a legend in the city of Houston."

Hurts said he will have friends, family and former teammates in the crowd for Thursday night's game, and is grateful for those who support him. Reiterating a common theme, though, he added that his approach won't change just because of the city he is playing in.

"I have a lot of appreciation for all the supporters out there—regardless of if you're in Houston, Florida, Cali or whatever it is. It is exciting to be able to go back home and play in front of the home crowd, where I'm from. I think that's exciting," Hurts said. "While it is exciting, my process doesn't change. My mentality doesn't change. Every week is a business trip. That's how I'm treating this week. Nothing changes."

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