Setting a goal isn't an arbitrary assignment for Jalen Hurts. A goal is something he strives to reach, a mission he makes sure to accomplish. Walking across the stage over the weekend to accept his diploma after finishing all the required schoolwork to earn his master's degree in human relations at the University of Oklahoma was, for Hurts, everything.
Hurts completed the required work in recent months, taking one course in management and one in leadership, both of them online after the Eagles' 2022 season ended in Super Bowl LVII.
"It was a goal that I set for myself and I think more importantly, it's something that I started and it's something I had to finish," Hurts said on Monday at the NovaCare Complex. "I think it was the perfect time for me to do it, considering I was probably going to run out of time to finish it later on with my credits expiring and stuff like that. It's important to me and it's something that made my parents proud. I know my mom has her master's already; my girl has her master's. So, I'm chasing them (smiling). My best friend has his master's. So, just chasing them.
"I'm glad I got it out of the way. It's something off the checklist and I was able to knock out the classes online after everything settled from the season."
After earning his bachelor's degree in public relations and information sciences in 2018 after only three years at the University of Alabama, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma and played a single season there in 2019, leading the Sooners to the Big 12 Championship and a No. 4 ranking in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Hurts was then, of course, taken with the 53rd overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and the rest is history in the making. Even with all the success Hurts has had on the field – earning a starting quarterback job with the Eagles, becoming the youngest quarterback in franchise history to lead the team to the playoffs in the 2021 season, blossoming into a Pro Bowl player and Most Valuable Player finalist in 2022 as Philadelphia reached Super Bowl LVII – he kept his educational goal in mind.
And he reached it on Friday night. As Hurts walked across the stage to accept his diploma at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, the audience of students and friends and family of the graduates gave him a rousing standing ovation. His ear-to-ear grin said so much about the pride he felt.
"I think it's awesome being able to go back to OU and I pride myself on being an alumnus of two great schools, two great universities that have a lot of tradition, and that's something that I'm really proud to say," he said. "Going back to school was definitely a transition having been out of school and not being in that mode, but I'm glad we got it done."
Education is something that Hurts and his family value. His mother, Pamela, earned her master's degree, while raising Jalen, to become a special education teacher/counselor in his hometown of Channelview, Texas. His father, Averion, is a high school football coach at Hurts' alma mater, Channelview High School.
"Finishing what I start, that's important to me and my family," he said. "I think it takes a certain dedication to do that, when you commit yourself to something truly and say you're going to finish it. This was the time for me to finish it. It's a great feeling walking across the stage, great feeling being able to see my loved ones' smile after all of their support for me.
"There is a lot of attention that goes to having success on the football field and the things I may be doing in the community, but nobody can take this scholarship aspect of it, the academic aspect of it, away from me."