The eyes of the college football nation will be on Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts Saturday night, a situation that will require his usual composure and remarkable concentration.
Hurts would have to superhuman not to think of home, though.
The Crimson Tide quarterback is from Channelview, Texas, in the eastern suburbs of Houston, an area that has been inundated by rains from Hurricane Harvey. His old school, Channelview High, is closed this week, serving as a storm shelter. His parents and relatives, whom he speaks to twice a day, are safely above the floodwaters, but are on a sort of oasis, with limited travel options.
It’s crazy,” Hurts said at Alabama’s Monday media session. “It’s a blessing for me because my house hasn’t really been damaged, my street hasn’t really had a lot of flooding. Everything around it is pretty bad. Woodforest and Beltway Eight and all that, (there’s) just a lot going on. I’ve seen pictures where there is water up to the streetlights, 20 feet up. But my family is good and that’s a blessing.”
“The freeways are dead, so they don’t really want to go anywhere,” Hurts said. “They’re shut down, a lot of rescue boats (are) out, people on boats. Not good to drive anywhere.”
That may include driving to the airport on Friday. Hurts’ family usually attends all of Jalen’s games that it can and had planned to be at the historic No. 1 versus No. 3 matchup in Atlanta. That’s now on hold.
“We’ll see,” Hurts said of his family plans. “My main thing is for them to be safe. They can watch on television if they have to. They have electricity.”
Hurts said he was dedicating his performance on Saturday to his family and the City of Houston. But he also said that his focus had not been interrupted.
“It’s Florida State week, opening week this week,” Hurts said. “(The people of Houston are) in my prayers back home, but we’re focused. As a team, we know what we have in front of us and we have to get ready.”
Hurts isn’t the only Alabama player whose family is in the path of the storm. Kick returner Xavian Marks is also from metropolitan Houston. Deionte Thompson is from Orange and Tony Beaumont is from Beaumont, eastern Texas towns that are in the path of the storm. More than a dozen Alabama players are from Louisiana, which may see catastrophic rainfall as well.
“As of right now, all of our coaches have been in touch with their families and the players,” coach Nick Saban said on Monday. “If anybody is having any issues and we can be of any assistance to them, we’ve certainly let them know that we’re here to try and help in any way that we can. We want our players to feel comfortable that their families are not in any danger or in harm’s way. To this point, we don’t have any significant issues that we have to report.”
All those players will have to balance family and football this week, recognizing that their homes and families are a first priority while still maintaining their attention to the task at hand. They’ll also be a part of what will be a long-term rebuilding effort along the Texas coast, one that will takes months and years, not just a week. Hopefully, Alabama — and all its fans — will be able to help with that, with prayers and resources.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.