“Everybody on the team has really fallen in love with him,” the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said about the Philadelphia Eagles and second-round draft pick Jalen Hurts, although they might not love the quarterback quite as much as Alexander August.
After all, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said on Thursday that Nate Sudfeld, not Hurts, remained the backup to starter Carson Wentz at quarterback. You think Alexander August would say something like that?
Who is Alexander August? He’s the 6-year-old from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the bottom of a feel-good story that ran through social media this week. His favorite football player is Hurts, and Hurts appreciates that.
Hurts discovered his status with Alexander when Alexander’s mother tweeted a photo of the youngster’s homemade Jalen Hurts backpack. Hurts had the backpack duplicated, except with the name Alexander on it instead of his.
It just so happened that when Hurts tweeted a photo of his backpack, Alexander and his family were watching a replay of the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game. Hurts led Oklahoma to a 30-23 overtime victory against Baylor in that contest.
“For him to be watching my game as I sent that tweet out, that’s beyond me,” Hurts told the Eagles’ official website. “That’s God right there.”
The story started when Nikki Godfrey asked her sons about backpacks for school. Eight-year-old Brayden wanted one with his favorite player, former Auburn star and New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton. Alexander did, too, but his favorite player wasn’t Newton — and finding gear for rookies who were second-round draft picks isn’t as easy as that for a former NFL MVP.
“We thought he would want Cam Newton just like his brother,” Godfrey told nj.com. “I googled it. I went online to the NFL Shop and Amazon, and I could not find anything. The Jalen Hurts backpack just did not exist. Like a 6-year-old, he was a little upset and wanted that backpack.”
So Godfrey turned to her mother, and “Mimi” and her sewing machine came through for her grandson, stitching Hurts’ name and number on a blue backpack.
When the August brothers took their backpacks on a trip to the Louisiana Children’s Museum and Godfrey realized why everyone was calling Alexander Jalen, she shared what she thought would be a funny photo and anecdote for her 150 or so Twitter followers.
Then the blue backpack with his name and number on it came to Hurts’ attention, and the former Alabama standout remembered how much it had meant to him when he went to the Houston Texans training camp and met NFL players as a kid.
“Now to have the same platform in a sense and to be able to touch so many people, I try to take advantage of every opportunity I can,” Hurts said. “It’s a blessing that means the world to me. That’s what it’s all about – giving back, showing love and helping others. That’s what it comes down to. That’s the rent we pay to live on this earth.”
Joshua August, Alexander’s father, said he wasn’t surprised at Hurts’ gesture, remembering how the quarterback had handled himself at Alabama.
Hurts won the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award as a freshman in 2016, when he helped the Crimson Tide reach the CFP national championship game. The next season, Hurts and Alabama returned to the title game. But with the Tide trailing Georgia at halftime, Tua Tagovailoa replaced Hurts at quarterback and led Alabama to an overtime victory.
Despite speculation that he would transfer, Hurts stayed with the Tide for the 2018 season. And while Tagovailoa held the starting job, Hurts played a big part in Alabama’s victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game as he replaced the injured Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter and rallied the Tide.
“I was shocked at the fanfare that it’s receiving,” Joshua August told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I wasn’t shocked understanding Jalen Hurts’ story — how he dealt with the benching in Alabama, how he came in during the championship game when Tua got hurt. He came in; didn’t mope.
“Everybody in America pretty much thought he was just going to transfer out. I remember all the talking heads saying, ‘Oh, he should transfer.’ He stuck in and got his degree and that showed a tremendous amount of character. And even after all that, he never bashed the program, anything about it. A tremendous amount of character, so I wasn’t shocked that he did something like that because that speaks to his character and his upbringing.”
Alexander said he picked Hurts as his favorite player because the quarterback “can throw, he’s fast and he’s smart.” Godfrey said she’s happy her son has Hurts as his favorite player for reasons that go beyond football.
“You can excel on the field and that is great, but to display a level of character that is top-notch to be a good teammate, all of the intangibles that you want for your child, I think Jalen displays those things,” Godfrey said. “It has been really cool to see that he would take the time to reach out to Alexander in that way, and I think it is a testament to his character that he has demonstrated on and off the field. For me, as a mom, that has been really fulfilling and really exciting to my boys to be able to have that moment right now, especially in the midst of all that is going on right now.”
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @AMarkG1.