RTI contributor Adam McCracken contributed to this article
With the 67th overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, former Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd was selected by the San Francisco 49ers. Hurd, who transferred to Baylor and switched positions to play wide receiver, was the 11th wideout taken in the 2019 draft.
The standout running back announced he would transfer off UT’s roster after a 24-21 loss to South Carolina in late October. A strained relationship with then-head coach Butch Jones and fallout from several injuries led to the decision. The following spring, Hurd announced he would join Baylor, sitting out the 2017 season per NCAA transfer rules. While sitting out, Hurd learned the ins and outs of his new position.
In an extensive interview with Chase Goodbread of NFL.com, Hurd detailed his decision to transfer from UT and switch positions.
“Hurd’s radical career move wasn’t the knee-jerk response of an impetuous star; his relationship with Jones had been strained for almost two years, and his relationship with the running back position had been strained for almost two months,” Goodbread wrote.
Though the 6-foot-5, 225-pound athlete did receive some carries in 2018, he primarily lined up at receiver, hauling in 69 catches for 946 yards and eight touchdowns. He did carry the ball 48 times for 209 yards and three scores for the Bears, though.
During his time at Tennessee, Hurd made many highlight plays, finishing his UT career with 2,635 rushing yards and 20 scores while adding 67 receptions for 492 yards and six touchdowns. He finished a few hundred yards shy of breaking Tennessee’s career rushing yardage record before transferring.
“I wasn’t afraid to ask for what I wanted, but I never once demanded it or acted disrespectful to coach Jones about it,” Hurd said. “He would say, ‘I’ve got you,’ but then it would be the same old thing. Just tell me things aren’t going to change and I might have transferred sooner (and) there wouldn’t have been any hard feelings.
“All I ever wanted was to be told straight.”
Hurd’s transfer not only of schools but aldo position was a risky one, but it led to a great landing spot for him in the NFL.
Oddly enough, after all of the debates about Hurd and fellow running back Alvin Kamara during and after their times at Tennessee, both players were drafted 67th overall in their respective draft classes. Kamara was selected 67th overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 2017 draft. If Hurd continues to follow in Kamara’s footsteps, he will end up winning Rookie of the Year in 2019. Though it seems like a long shot for Hurd to have the immediate effect Kamara had, one thing is for sure: The “Butch Jones Effect” appears alive and well.
Hurd doesn’t regret his decision to leave Tennessee, but he does wish he had handled it better at the time. Now, though, it seems as though his risk is paying off.
“Looking back at it, yeah, I should’ve waited it out,” Hurd explained. “I should have finished the season even if I wouldn’t have played (at Tennessee) again. I don’t think I’d be looked at in the same negative light I am now. But I didn’t see that at the time.
“I regret it, but it wasn’t a decision I made lightly. There would be less to explain now.”