NEW ORLEANS -- One of the first people Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts sought out following the Crimson Tide's loss to Clemson in the national championship game last year was his counterpart that night.
Several days after the game, Hurts called former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
"I called to congratulate him and find out how he bounced back," Hurts said Saturday. "He lost it and came back and won it."
Watson, who went on to be a first-round pick by the Houston Texans, led Clemson on the game-winning drive to beat Alabama 35-31, right after Hurts put the Crimson Tide ahead 31-28 with 2:07 remaining on a 30-yard touchdown run. In 2016, Watson was on the short end of a 45-40 loss to Alabama in the national championship game despite passing for 405 yards and four touchdowns.
On Monday night, the teams meet in the playoffs for a third straight year, in the College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl. This time, Hurts faces quarterback Kelly Bryant.
"Deshaun's done what I'm trying to do," Hurts said. "So I hit him up, and we had a really good conversation and he had some really good advice for me and told me how he overcame it. I took what he told me and tried to apply it."
Hurts said some of Watson's best advice was to be even more demonstrative as a leader.
"He told me to be fearless and go get it," Hurts said. "He recognized the dog mentality in me, the 'it' factor in me. That's how we compare and, I think, the reason we connected."
Hurts is 24-2 as Alabama's starting quarterback. Other than that loss to Clemson a year ago, the only game Hurts has lost was his last one, a 26-14 loss to Auburn in the regular-season finale.
"We have a standard for ourselves," Hurts said. "We want to be at the top and are about to play the reigning national champs. They won it last year. We always say, 'You have to do what the beast does.' We want to be on that pedestal and have to go earn it."