Former South Carolina football star Hayden Hurst is getting to do something most would be envious of.
“The season is so long,” Hurst said. “I just wanted to get home and just kind of do nothing. It’s been nice.”
One can forgive the man for needing a little downtime as he dropped into Columbia for the Gamecocks’ spring game weekend. He was steeped in football for somewhere between 23 and 25 weeks. He said that was his biggest takeaway from Year 1 with the Baltimore Ravens — needing to stick with it and build a plan to get through.
The 6-foot-5 tight end with flowing red hair admitted the full grind was something well beyond what he’d been through before.
“I don’t know if you ever can really prepare for your rookie year,” Hurst said at DJ Swearinger’s charity basketball game. “You don’t know what to expect. You get some guidance from older guys, but you’ve got to kind of learn, figure things out on your own.”
Hurst had already been a professional athlete. It’s the oft-told story of how he played minor league baseball for Pittsburgh before walking on at South Carolina and breaking all sorts of records while posting 1,175 yards in his final two college seasons.
He was taken in the first round by Baltimore and had to overcome a broken foot at the start of the season. In 12 games, he caught 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown.
“For me, I think it was just average,” Hurst said, adding he’s fully healthy. “I give myself a C. I think I’m capable of a lot more. But the foot thing kind of held me back.”
He also played a small role in the Ravens’ late offensive push, after the coaches benched quarterback Joe Flacco and put dual-threat passer and fellow rookie Lamar Jackson at the helm.
The Ravens threw less with Jackson but went 6-1 with him starting, enough to reach the playoffs. Now Flacco is off to Denver, and Hurst will be working in a different kind of NFL attack.
“I think everybody saw what our offense became with Lamar in there,” Hurst said.
Hurst and the Ravens will start offseason workouts in the middle of April. After some time in Jacksonville with family and the quick stopover in Columbia, he’ll be back in Baltimore, chasing his pro football dreams (he said favorite thing there is the crabcakes).
But for at least a little longer, he’ll get to enjoy that break.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” Hurst said. “The season, now the offseason, it’s been good. Kind of getting some downtime.”