Jalen Hurd reinventing himself as a wide receiver

Senior wide receiver Jalen Hurd participates in a Baylor spring practice. Hurd transferred from Tennessee after spending three years as a running back. Photo credit: Baylor Athletics

By Ben Everett | Sports Editor

New Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd made a decision that will most likely cost him millions of dollars in the short run.

Hurd, previously a running back for Tennessee, announced his decision to leave the Volunteers’ program on Nov. 7, 2016, after a tumultuous stretch of games in his junior season.

Hurd was projected to be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft as a running back after a stint in Knoxville, Tennessee that saw him become the storied program’s No. 6 all-time leader in rushing yards. Hurd piled on an average of almost 1,300 yards from scrimmage his first two years at Tennessee with a total of 21 touchdowns.

Instead of prepping for the draft and a career as a running back, Hurd made a life-changing decision … he would switch to wide receiver.

The biggest reason, according to Hurd, is the physical toll on the body.

“My body was not really feeling that well at running back,” Hurd told reporters at a Baylor spring practice. “I had a lot of injuries at Tennessee. The switch has been great for me to rest my body. I’ll be able to play a lot longer, I think, at this position.”

Hurd wasn’t just thinking about his college career; he was looking toward a professional career in football.

“I didn’t just do this on a whim. I researched it,” Hurd told Bleacher Report. “Running backs last 3.5 years in the NFL. Wide receivers can last 10 or more years. Receivers are more valued than running backs in the NFL, and I can play this game a lot longer and can be more valuable as a receiver. It’s not just a position and career change, it’s a life change.”

In order to facilitate his position change, Hurd needed to transfer schools and show NFL scouts his competency at the wide receiver position during his final year of college eligibility.

Hurd said he took his time to learn the wide receiver position before looking at transfer options.

“Transition has been going really well,” Hurd said. “I had time after I stopped playing for a bit to really focus on receiver and get that mentality and kind of learn the perimeter a little bit.”

On April 22, 2017, Hurd announced his decision to join the Baylor football team. Hurd said the new coaching staff at Baylor drew him to Waco with their no-nonsense management style.

“I saw a great opportunity,” Hurd said. “I liked what Rhule was doing here. I saw that I could do really well here and its been a great decision so far. They’re straight up. They’ve been straight up with me since I stepped on campus. That’s what you want as a player. They run a strict ship here which I respect.”

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Hurd was forced to sit out a year before unveiling his new football identity as a wide receiver.

Hurd, who spent the 2017 season on Baylor’s scout team, said he bided his time by learning the ins and outs of his new position.

“It was humbling,” Hurd said. “I came here and sat on the scout team every single day. It was humbling but I was learning the game. I was learning how to move in and out of my cuts. I was still working, working on my hands and everything like that, doing the transition.”

Despite minimal practice on the perimeter of the football field, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule has supreme confidence in his team’s new offensive weapon.

“He’s going to play a long time in the NFL—as a wide receiver,” Rhule told Bleacher Report. ”He will be an elite wide receiver.”

Hurd is listed as a starting inside receiver in Baylor’s preseason depth chart along with wide receivers Chris Platt and Denzel Mims.

With the Bears coming off of a one-win season in Rhule’s first year, Hurd hopes to put Baylor back on the map.

Once projected as a first-round pick running back with potentially millions of dollars to his name, Hurd now must prove his worth as a wide receiver.

“Baylor is reinventing itself; I’m reinventing myself,” Hurd told Bleacher Report. “We both have a lot to prove.”