Quizzes, lamps and Novocaine: Inside Eagles' Jalen Hurts and his Hurts-isms

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward did not hesitate when asked to pick one player who is poised for a big season in 2021.

"Jalen, for sure. Jalen Hurts," Ward said.

"His attention to detail, his preparation, his hard work. You can just see it, man, he really wants it, and I believe he's going to show everybody what he's made of."

What is Hurts made of, exactly?

Small pieces of the mosaic have been filled in since his arrival in Philadelphia as the team's second-round draft pick last spring -- and more rapidly in the past couple months -- that help us understand how Hurts is wired.

Hurts, who was taken to the hospital prior to Thursday's preseason game against the New England Patriots with a stomach infection, returned to practice Sunday and is scheduled to participate in this week's joint sessions with the New York Jets on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Those pieces come in the form of stories, like the one trainer Gabe Rangel told about Hurts' 5 a.m. workouts at offensive tackle Lane Johnson's Bro Barn during the offseason. (A former power-lifter, Hurts can deadlift 625 pounds and squats in the mid-500s.) "He's in here, he has the playbook out and he's yelling the plays out in between sets," Rangel said. "I've never seen someone so dedicated to their craft."

Hurts' wide receivers tell another one about pop quizzes. This is Hurts' fourth system in as many seasons, but he's gotten coach Nick Sirianni's offense down to the point where he's simultaneously working as student and teacher. Hurts will spring questions on his skill players randomly throughout the day to make sure they're up to speed. No place is safe: Hurts might hit them with one while in the ice tub during recovery, when passing by in the hallway or during a meal in the cafeteria.

"You want to make sure everybody knows what they're doing," said Hurts, 23. "It gives you reassurance when you're on the field, you have certain routes that have certain rules in them, certain things to activate versus certain coverages, and you want to make sure everyone is doing that so there is no hesitation on my behalf fearing somebody may mess up or may not know what they're supposed to do."

Added Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor: "Off the field, you're kinda like, 'Man, I wasn't even thinking about that.' But sometimes you have to be."

Hurts' favorite sayings also offer clues as to what he's about -- and he has a lot of them. Here's a sample:

  • "The lamp is never full." Hurts' response when asked to assess what kind of practice he had at the beginning of training camp, suggesting there's always room for improvement.

  • "I'm confident we'll do that with time. Like Novocaine." On Hurts' efforts to build relationships with all of his teammates -- a must in order to be "dominant" on the field in his view. Why Novocaine? "Give it time, it always works," he said.

  • "Just trying to be a coffee bean." During a tumultuous 2020 season, Hurts took that train of thought, especially when battling with former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz for playing time. Hurts continues: "You put an egg in boiling water, it hardens up. It doesn't affect anything. The carrot softens up. The coffee bean spreads and gets stronger and impacts the people around you."

  • "I know rent is due every day. It's always been that way for me ... and when that rent is due, I don't plan on missing no payments." In May, Hurts on not being named the starting quarterback and having to earn his spot.

The "rent is due" mantra has caught on because other Eagles players are using it in conversation. Safety Rodney McLeod even put the phrase on a hat as part of his "Back of House" clothing line. And Sirianni referenced it this week when asked if the Eagles' offense is where it wants to be with the season fast approaching.

"Are we where we want to be right now? No, because we have three more weeks to go until we get there, and we're anticipating ourselves getting better every single day," Sirianni said. "I know Jalen said, 'Your rent is due every day,' and when you pay your rent every day, you get better every day."

The most recent Hurts-ism is, "Ten percent of life is what happens to you. Ninety percent is how you respond to it." That came off a question about the importance of proper body language and carrying yourself for the good of the team.

Hurts talked about the idea of accepting adversity and adopting a "So what? Now what?" mindset. Asked how he developed that mentality, he referenced being the son of a coach -- his father, Averion, is the head football coach at Channelview High School in Harris County, Texas -- and how his dad's approach shaped him. He went a little deeper, saying his older brother, also named Averion, used to talk back to his father, and that Jalen learned from his brother's mistakes and took a different tact.

What about the origin of some of Hurts' other sayings?

"It's no one person," Hurts said. "Those come from valuable experiences in life. You go through things, you experience things, you see how people respond to things. And you've got two different types of people: you've got a person that's going to let it ride out and not think they can learn from their situation. I'm a guy where I feel like I can learn from any type of situation. I'll never disrespect anyone, I'll show respect to everybody because everybody has a different point of view on anything and everything. So just being like a sponge and soaking it in, and if it's good for me and I can apply it to my life and my work ethic, my mindset, I will."