PHOENIX — Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts played three seasons at Alabama and led the Crimson Tide to a national title game appearance as a freshman. He accounted for 53 total touchdowns and was a second-place Heisman finisher during his lone season with Oklahoma.
So which school now gets to claim this season’s NFL MVP runner-up and Super Bowl starter?
At a time in college football when the transfer portal is heating up, so is the claiming debate. For players who switched schools while playing college ball, it can be tricky to decide which school gets the honor of claiming that player as one of its own. For Hurts, both Alabama and Oklahoma seem to be doing so, with the Crimson Tide and Sooners showing love to the quarterback over the past couple of weeks.
Hurts appears to be OK with both teams, too. During an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show” in 2021, he declined to choose between the two. He mentioned earlier this season that “he went to Alabama too” in response to a question about Oklahoma, while also responding “Boomer” to a reporter opening a question with “Boomer Sooner” on Thursday.
It goes beyond Hurts. College teams never pass up the chance to shout out players, especially those in the Super Bowl, who have made contributions to their programs. Notre Dame posted quite the graphic for alum Ian Book that looks a bit like he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. In reality, he’s the third-string quarterback who hasn’t stepped on the field this season.
Penn State got some ribbing prior to last year’s Super Bowl with a graphic, now deleted, that read in a large font, “A Penn Stater Has Appeared In Every Super Bowl,” which was followed by “Except For Five Since 1967.” Internet trolls had a field day.
The debate over claiming players who started for multiple schools will persist. While fans and media members seem to drive the debate, it’s not clear how most players feel about it.
At least 10 players who are set to play this Sunday transferred at some point to a different school. Eagles cornerback Zech McPhearson started his college career at Penn State but transferred to Texas Tech after three seasons with the Nittany Lions.
McPhearson graduated from Penn State and said he has love for the university and coach James Franklin, but he also said there comes a time where “love should go both ways.” He said he doesn’t get any of the gear boxes that are sent to lettermen, joking that he has to swipe a T-shirt from Miles Sanders on occasion. McPhearson is rolling with Texas Tech when it comes to the claiming debate.
“I’m a proud Penn State alumni. I graduated from there,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think Texas Tech owns most of the rights. I put my time in there and made an impact that helped the university win some games. I had a great time there. No shame on Penn State.”
Philadelphia quarterback Gardner Minshew has an unusual perspective on the topic, as he attended four different colleges from 2015 to 2018. He said he has no problem with any of them claiming him, but he calls himself a Washington State Cougar because it was “home” for him. Chiefs punter Tommy Townsend, similarly, doesn’t mind if Tennessee or Florida wants to call him their own, but said he has to stay true to the Gators.
The majority of the transfer players at the Super Bowl appear to not have a preference, including Eagles running back Trey Sermon and offensive linemen Jack Driscoll and Landon Dickerson, as well as Chiefs safety Bryan Cook, quarterback Shane Buechele, and defensive end Mike Danna.
“I don’t get (the debate),” Dickerson said. “I got a degree from Florida State. I got a degree from Alabama. If they’re trying to, you know, summarize this guy’s entire career into one college, you’re doing a disservice to him.”
Dickerson mentioned both schools shaped who he is today, noting he met his fiancee at Florida State and won a national title at Alabama.