Home NFL How the Jalen Hurts-A.J. Brown brotherhood became the heartbeat of the Eagles’...

How the Jalen Hurts-A.J. Brown brotherhood became the heartbeat of the Eagles’ offense


PHILADELPHIA – The locker room doors opened and music filled the room following the Philadelphia Eagles’ victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week 12. The players fussed. Some laugh. A little dancing. Some were shouting profanity at no one in particular (Darius Slay, still pissed off about not being able to intercept Aaron Rogers). Everyone moves back and forth quickly, forming a ball of kinetic energy suitable for an 11-1 team.

But two figures, quarterback Jalen Hurts and wide receiver AJ Brown, stood stone-faced in the center of the room, like stars in a movie against which the world blurred. Both were shirtless and still in sweatpants—the dressing procedure had been put on hold for the time being. Most, if not all, Hurts said.

Hurts then held out his hand, they clapped each other’s hands, reached out to each other for a hug, and left to join the pack.

“He said he was proud of me,” Brown said.

A stomach ailment had kept Brown from eating for most of the previous week. He lost seven pounds and vomited so badly that a blood vessel in his right eye burst. Midway through the second quarter, he had a costly fumble deep in Green Bay territory, but returned with a six-yard touchdown in the third. Pain, as it turned out, raised him after a grueling stretch.

“I tell him all the time that I’m proud of him too,” Brown said.

Hurts and Brown have been best friends ever since Hurts tried to recruit Brown to come to Alabama. Their friendship has grown over the years, even as they went their separate ways in college and early in their professional careers. In April, they finally became teammates when the Eagles acquired Brown from the Tennessee Titans for 18th and 101st overall, a move Hurts championed and helped get to the finish line.

The results on the field speak for themselves, with Hurts enjoying an MVP campaign and Brown close to the best season of his career with over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns.

According to quarterback Gardner Minshew, some teammates jokingly compare Hurts and Brown to an “older married couple” because although they are obviously close, they fight. Most liken them to brothers. According to several teammates, Brown challenges and talks to Hurts in a way no other player can or wants to. Hurts is equally demanding.

“At the end of the day, the honesty we can have towards each other only allows us to succeed. You need people around you who will be honest with you and tell you the truth,” Herts said. “I think we have a bond that is strong enough to make it happen. This is what we try to do, even when it hurts.”

Their personalities are contrasting. Painfully reserved. Brown, more outgoing, gets frustrated with the fact that Hurts is constantly in business – always rubbing against that huge piece of wood on his shoulder.

But they are very similar in nature and are able to balance each other. And most importantly, they serve as a support system for each other, which is crucial this season and throughout their football career.

“It’s a natural connection for me, how they got to where they are now,” said Willie Gillespie, Brown’s coach for wide receivers at Starkville, Mississippi High School, who has seen their relationship up close. “They don’t take their position for granted, they both work hard and everything they have they have earned.

“Of course, I think that dreams came true when they had the opportunity to play together. Like I said to AJ, “It’s called divine intervention, mate.”

Having already visited Alabama in the fall of 2015, Herts said his first interaction with Brown was on social media. The two stayed in touch throughout their senior years as Hurts, who starred at Channelview High School in Texas, was looking for players to join him in Tuscaloosa. Herts entered Alabama early and was on campus when recruiting began and served as host on Brown’s campus.

“We just hit it off,” Brown said. “I was just drawn to him because he is a good person, most importantly. I think that people can recognize good people when they see them. You could feel that vibe from him and I think it started from that visit.”

Herts’ attempts to convince Brown to play for the Tide were unsuccessful, but they had an instant rapport and kept in touch. That summer, Brown invited Hurts to train with him in Starkville, an hour’s drive from Tuscaloosa.

Painfully obliged. But he wasn’t about to let Brown slip away so easily because he preferred Ole to Miss Alabama.

“They would come to our house and go on YouTube and watch Alabama play. Of course Jalen would have poked it in his face and stuff like that,” Gillespie said with a laugh. “However, it was all in jest. Their relationship sort of evolved from that and turned into an inextricable bond.”

Summer training has become a tradition, much to the delight of the Starkville kids, who get to train with two up-and-coming college stars.

“It got competitive, man. It was like two brothers playing ball,” Gillespie said.

“Man, run! Come on!’

Well, you didn’t throw the ball early enough! You didn’t throw it far enough! Throw on time!

– Well, you just catch it!

This is how many of their Eagles teammates and coaches describe it, showing up in both big and small ways in their daily interactions. Hurts would walk to the wide receiver section of the locker room, walk into Brown’s locker room without a word, grab a pair of his socks, and leave.

“AJ will look at us and ask, ‘What’s going on with him?’ I’m like, “He’s your best friend. He can do it. He has the power to do it.” As well as [Brown] just walk up to him and take his socks back,” wide receiver Kes Watkins said.

“They’re sitting right here,” coach Nick Sirianni said, pointing to two adjacent seats in the front row of the NovaCare Complex. “Sometimes they talk and sometimes they argue.”

“[It will be] AJ talks about how he wants to run that route, and Jalen says, “I’m throwing you the ball, run the route the way I want you to run it,” added tight end Dallas Godert. “Such little things. .”

“Nothing personal. No personal attacks. You can talk to each other very directly, in a way that other people might be afraid of,” said receiver/immigrant Britan Covey.

There is a debate about who is the older brother. Someone on the side of the harder Hurts, who is sometimes blamed for holding back the more agitated Brown. But the majority of those interviewed in the locker room and on the street said Brown is the older brother, which even Hurts acknowledged after a moment of reflection on the question, admitting that Brown had experienced more “adult things” in his life.

“I would like to say so. But he definitely tries to be a big brother sometimes,” Brown said. “I came into the league a little early. I can only say that at the moment I have achieved more. I think he just respects that: respect for my game, respect for what I’ve already done, and so I think that’s where big brother and little brother come in.”

“It upsets me that I say: “Sometimes have fun,” he added. “He’s like, ‘I have fun winning. Here he is. But he’s better.”

However, Brown’s admiration for Hurts runs deep. He watched his friend bench in the national championship against Georgia for Tua Tagovailoa in the 2017 season, lost his starter spot in 2018, and then led Alabama to an SEC championship victory over the same Georgia team later that year. season when Tagovailoa lost. injury.

“In order for him to be on the bench, come back and play well in that league match, I told him, personally me, that I could not go through this. I learned something from him in that situation,” Brown said.

“We talked that night, after everything happened. He was so calm. We just talked, and he knew what he had to do – he had to go to work. I think he is what he is, he was brought up that way.

Hurts responded in kind, including on draft night in 2019. Brown looked to make it to the first round, but moved on to the second before being selected 51st overall by the Titans. Hurts was next to him at the draft party.

“He’s a man who’s been through everything,” Herts said. “He never changed under any circumstances or situations. I appreciate him for that, and I appreciate our connection and the aspirations and ambitions we have. We are pursuing these goals together.”

Hurts called his shot.

Last April, he traveled to Mississippi to attend the birthday party of his goddaughter Jersey, Brown’s two-year-old daughter.

As with most times they get together, the duo found a local training ground.

“In the middle of the throwing session, Jalen said he would ask [the Eagles] to trade for me,” Brown said. “We laughed and joked. We had no idea this would happen.”

Turns out Hurts “pasted a bug in [management’s] ear,” according to Brown, to bring him on board.

Brown passed the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first two seasons with the Titans, including a 70-alleyway, 1,075-yard campaign in 2020 when he threw a career-best 11 touchdowns. In 2021, he had 63 catches for 869 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games. But when Brown reached a stalemate with Tennessee in an attempt to broker a new deal, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman worked behind the scenes to make the deal go through.

The terms of the deal were agreed before the first night of the draft, but it depended on whether Brown and the Eagles would renew the contract. This should have been done by the time Philadelphia was on the 18th pick clock. Approaching the 15 peak, the deal hung in the air. Roseman left the draft room again and again, ducking into conference rooms with his phone to his ear, trying to make a deal. Almost no one in the building knew what was going on, with one exception – Hurts.

“I warned him before the draft, one of the few, in case I needed him…

Source: www.espn.com