South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst has seen baseball slugger Aaron Judge up close, but not even that could prepare him for the intimidation factor of the SEC.
Hurst described his baseball-to-football transition and his encounter with Judge, the rookie slugging sensation of the New York Yankees, during an interview with Gridiron Now’s Frank Frangie and Hays Carlyon on 1010XL Jax Sports Radio during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.
“Everything they tell you about SEC football is 100 percent true,” Hurst said. “You’d better have your chinstrap buckled up every single week, because there’s guys wanting to take your head off. If you don’t have your feet in the ground, they’re going to get you.”
Hurst, who played professional baseball before joining the Gamecocks’ program, was charting pitches during a minor league game when Judge stepped to the plate.
“I’m sitting behind home plate and this guy walks up, and we all kind of look and we’re like, ‘Who is this guy?'” Hurst said. “He’s 6-9, all of 6-9. He steps up to the plate and one of my buddies is pitching. First pitch, throws him a fastball inside, and he turns on it and it sounded like a gunshot, he hit it so hard.
“It went over the palm trees, over the street, over the bushes, onto the golf course.”
After encounters with batters like Judge and trouble finding the strike zone, Hurst said he decided to trade baseball for football. That’s where a former Gamecocks quarterback came in.
“I called Perry Orth, one of my good buddies, because he was up here playing football at Carolina,” Hurst said. “I asked him, ‘What is college football all about?’
“He was like, ‘Hey, man, I know what kind of athlete you are. We’re shallow on tight ends. We think you’d be perfect.’ And he put me in contact with Steve (Spurrier) Jr. He told me to come on up and here I am.”
Now, he’s a team captain and working alongside a different South Carolina quarterback. Hurst said South Carolina is ready to go “as far as Jake Bentley wants to take us.”
“He gets in the film room and he grinds harder than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Hurst said. “For a 19-year-old kid to understand that’s what it takes to get the team to the next level, that’s impressive.”
Listen to the full interview by clicking the link below:
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