Hayden Hurt’s journey to the NFL featured a stop in minor league baseball first. A 17th round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 out of The Bolles School in Jacksonville, FL, Hurst had dreams of playing pro baseball before pro football.
When that dream died, he walked on the football team at the University of South Carolina in 2015. By 2016, his star was beginning to rise.
He started every game for the Gamecocks that season, setting school records for receptions and yards receiving by a tight end. This past year, he was an All-SEC selection at the position.
Now, most mock drafts expect him to be selected late in the first round Thursday night.
“I always knew I could do both (play baseball and football), to this extent, possibly being a first rounder, I don’t know if I knew that,” Hurst said of the NFL dream becoming a reality when he joined the “Frangie Show” on 1010XL Jax Sports Radio this week. “It really kind of set in my sophomore season at South Carolina when I broke all the tight end records and coach (Will) Muschamp sat me down at the end of the year and talked to me about the draft. I was like, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, what do you mean?” I was like, ‘I’m definitely coming back.’ When he started talking about the NFL, my future as an NFL player in my sophomore year is when it kind of clicked.”
With more attention given to the NFL Draft every year, and more scrutiny given its prospects, Hurst thinks having already been through a draft process before has helped him manage the pressure.
“I’m glad I went through it when I was a younger kid because I do have a different perspective than a lot of the guys,” Hurst said. “I tried – when I was 18 going through the baseball draft – to read everything that everyone says about you, and then you kind of get too caught up in that. But for me, you’re going to have people that like you, you’re going to have people that dislike you, I try to stay as level-headed as possible. I know my work on the football field and whatever organization picks me is going to be awesome Thursday night.”
That work on the football field has been facilitated by work off the football field. Hurst is known as a relentless workout guy, a habit he picked up in the minors.
“For me, it really clicked in Bradenton (in minor league baseball),” Hurst said of his work ethic. “I didn’t have the success on the field, I kind of made a promise to myself that I was never going to be outworked. Probably 2014 when things started going south in baseball, (working out) was kind of my outlet. I wanted to be stronger and faster and bigger than everybody so I got in the weight room and started working out hours before people. It didn’t correlate to the field in Bradenton, but it sure did in Columbia.”
An interesting subplot to Hurst’s draft night will involve his hometown team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are in need of a tight end and numerous experts and mock drafts have predicted that Hurst will start his pro career there.
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