“Do I look comfortable?”
Jalen Hurts was asking about the previous question, which suggested the Oklahoma quarterback looked genuinely settled nearly seven months after transferring from Alabama.
“You do,” they responded.
Hurts can be difficult to read and something of a mystery — it’s not easy to predict when he’ll answer a question with a question, when he’ll barely answer at all or when he’ll open up about himself.
But during a preseason local media day the morning before the senior was set to resume the Sooners’ quarterback competition on preseason camp’s opening day, he gently pulled the blinds back on his personality.
Hurts enrolled at OU in January. Beyond learning Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid offense and studying, he rests in his spare time or calls old friends.
He also enjoys writing: not fairy tales, non-fiction or poetry.
“If I said I was a poet I’d be kidding,” he said.
Hurts admitted he journals his thoughts. Other Sooners have nothing but glowing reviews of him. Hurts and CeeDee Lamb have developed a rapport since the spring. But until Friday, Lamb was unaware the QB enjoyed writing.
“Nah, I didn’t know that,” Lamb said.
It’s a reminder that Hurts is still working toward full integration in Norman even though he’s been entitled by players and coaches as a great leader. He still must take the formal step and win OU’s quarterback job, where redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai and freshman Spencer Rattler will also be given repetitions.
OU coach Lincoln Riley said he would prefer to name a starter during fall camp and has waited to make an announcement until Aug. 20 or later in the previous two competitions he’s overseen. Many assume it’s only a matter of time before Hurts, whose 71 career touchdowns are second in Alabama history, gets the nod.
For now, discussing the race at OU isn’t one of his favorite topics. Asked about what he felt he must do to secure the job, Hurts curtly replied that that was a question for Riley. Then he was pressed again.
“That’s a question for Coach Riley,” Hurts said.
But he was transparent about getting to know Riley and all that it’s been. The relationship had to be expedited given that Hurts will likely play just one more season as a Sooner.
“I’d say you have to force it,” Hurts said, “because of the short time I’m here and how much I have to take in before we get into game play.
“This relationship, I really appreciate it. Definitely a different relationship from coaches I’ve had in the past, but I think that relationship can take us a long way. I think it can take this team a long way.”
Hurts cherishes those connections on and off the field. He and many others were close with an Alabama superfan, Walt Gary, who became famous for his game-week predictions in Tuscaloosa every Thursday. Gary had Down syndrome and died in June at 36 years old.
“Walt was a great soul. He had a great spirit,” Hurts said. “I mean, he loved the game. He had a disability where he couldn’t do certain things he wanted to. But I respected his honesty. I loved everything about him. He’s a great person and he definitely sparked a lot of people’s lives. He had a big impact on a lot of people, thinking about every Thursday he’d come in and give us a prediction of the score. I looked forward to those Thursdays.”
His favorite memory? “All of them,” he said.
Former OU quarterback Kyler Murray grew up idolizing Michael Vick. Hurts said he grew up admiring his older brother and best friend, Averion, who at 5 feet, 10 inches played quarterback at Texas Southern.
“I liked to watch (him) play. He was a shorter guy, he didn’t really get that opportunity to play at a big school like this,” Hurts said. “He wasn’t as athletic as I was, but there were some things I learned from him that I applied to my game, and it’s taken me a long way.”
Hurts’ idiosyncrasies should be more apparent by the time OU hosts Houston on Sept. 1. Until then, the process continues for him, his teammates and anyone who wants to know about him.
Lamb didn’t know Hurts as a writer, but he does now. Hurts is also a singer, Lamb revealed.
“I know the man thinks he can sing. All kinds of old school music, [high] notes he thinks he can hit,” Lamb said. “The man gotta deep voice. I don’t know. I didn’t know he liked to write.
“But I’m still learning, just as well as he is.”