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Thursday Night Football: Jalen Hurts comes home to Houston as emerging star for Eagles

Jalen Hurts was a pretty big recruit when he was at Channelview High School, which is just east of Houston. Just nothing that would suggest he'd be an NFL MVP candidate someday.

Hurts was a four-star recruit at Rivals. He was ranked ninth among dual-threat quarterbacks in his class. Here are the eight dual-threat quarterbacks ranked ahead of Hurts in the class of 2016: Shea Patterson, Malik Henry, Jarrett Guarantano, Khalil Tate, Shane Buechele, Max Gilliam, Devon Modster, Zerrick Cooper. College football fans might recognize some of those names. Some won't ring a bell at all. Only Buechele is on an NFL roster. He's with the Kansas City Chiefs, and has yet to take an NFL snap.

As Hurts comes home to take on the Houston Texans on Thursday night, he leads a Philadelphia Eagles team that is 7-0 and a Super Bowl contender. Hurts, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are considered the top three MVP candidates in the NFL this season. It has been a great start for Hurts and his team.

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Hurts' rise is a testament to work and development. None of this was guaranteed to him. Just look at the names that were considered better than him coming out of high school.

Jalen Hurts had a bumpy ride to MVP candidate

Hurts' journey to stardom wasn't an easy one.

He was Rivals' 231st-ranked prospect in his high school class coming out of Channelview. That's about a 30-minute drive from NRG Stadium, where he'll face the Texans on Thursday. It's quite an accomplishment to be one of the 250 best high-school football players in the nation. It just didn't foreshadow NFL stardom.

Hurts went to Alabama, where he became the first freshman quarterback to start for Nick Saban. By his junior year, he lost his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa. You won't find many high-level NFL quarterbacks who were benched in college.

Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, had a huge season there and became a second-round pick of the Eagles. It was a curious selection, because the Eagles already had Carson Wentz. It turned out to be a hugely important pick, even if it didn't make total sense at the time.

Hurts took over the job from Wentz late in his rookie season. He showed flashes as a rookie. He showed more as a second-year player. Then he has exploded in his third season.

Hurts' story has one running theme. He has over-performed at every stop, due to his steady improvement (coaching helped too, when you can learn from Nick Saban, Lincoln Riley and now Nick Sirianni). Whether it was going to Alabama and starting before those higher-ranked prospects saw the field, resurrecting his career at Oklahoma after being benched, emerging as a rookie starter out of the second round of the NFL draft, or going from a question mark on the very talented Eagles to an MVP candidate of the NFL's last undefeated team, Hurts has exceeded expectations at every stop.

Give him a lot of credit for that.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is an MVP candidate in his third season. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is an MVP candidate in his third season. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Hurts is having a great season

Hurts' ascension has been one of the best stories of this NFL season.

Hurts' numbers are way up in just about every category. He has 1,799 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating has gone from 77.6 as a rookie to 87.2 last season to 105.1 this season. He also has 303 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Last week Hurts had 285 passing yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it would have been much more if the Eagles weren't sitting on a big lead in the second half.

More than just statistical brilliance, Hurts has emerged as a leader on a team full of star players.

"(It's) kind of trying to be a coach on the field, and knowing what I’m supposed to do, and knowing everybody’s job," Hurts said, according to the Delaware News Journal. "It’s something I definitely challenge myself to do, and it’s not easy. It takes a lot of preparation."

That's where his background matters. Hurts didn't have a can't-miss pedigree coming out of high school, college or even his second NFL season. He has turned himself into an NFL star. That earns respect.

"I think I’ve been through a ton of different things, and a ton of different experiences," Hurts said. "I’ve always felt like I was born for the storm, and built to overcome anything in front of me. That’s the mentality that I have."