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James Hurst Catches John Harbaugh's Attention

Posted May 21, 2014

The undrafted left tackle from North Carolina made a strong impression during rookie minicamp.

James Hurst’s draft weekend did not go the way he hoped.

The former blue-chip recruit who was a four-year starter at North Carolina ended up going undrafted, setting off a frenzy of calls from NFL teams that wanted to recruit him as a free agent. Hurst had 18 offers from NFL teams, but decided on Baltimore where he could realistically compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Once he joined the Ravens, Hurst made a strong first impression and caught the eye of Head Coach John Harbaugh during last weekend’s rookie minicamp. 

“Hurst at the left tackle draws my attention a lot,” Harbaugh said. “He has very good feet. He seems like he’s picking it up quickly. He likes to practice. He has a heavy punch. So, he has a chance.”

Hurst’s tumble out of the draft was mostly the result of him breaking his leg during a December bowl game. The injury limited his ability to work out for NFL scouts leading up to the draft, and he was unable to participate in the combine or Senior Bowl.

He tried to work out at North Carolina’s pro day in March, but he still wasn’t fully recovered from the injury.

“I did my pro day at about 80 percent and people were still kind of wondering after that,” Hurst said. “Obviously that injury was a big setback, but it’s behind me now and I’m just trying to get better and make the team.”

Hurst is now 100 percent and able to participate in all activities during the voluntary offseason program.

“I feel great,” Hurst said. “I’m not limited out here or in the weight room. Everything that we’ve done I’ve been able to do it. I’m really happy about that.”

The Ravens didn’t have much contact with Hurst during the pre-draft process, outside of a brief meeting at the combine. But once they noticed he would likely fall out of the draft, they went into full-scale recruiting mode.

Part of the selling point in getting him to Baltimore was the phone call he received from Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo who made a pitch for the Ravens.

“He called me, which meant a lot to me, and that kind of sold me and told me about the situation and what they had going on here,” Hurst said. “Obviously it was a good opportunity so I was excited to jump on it.”

Hurst immediately enters a competition for a roster spot after the Ravens did not draft an offensive tackle with their eight picks this season. The current starting tackles are Eugene Monroe at left tackle and Rick Wagner at right tackle, with Jah Reid as a reserve. Kelechi Osemele could also slide out to play right tackle.

If Hurst continues to impress throughout the offseason and into training camp, then he will likely be in the conversation for a roster spot.

“I want to make the team. I know they need a third tackle,” Hurst said. “I know they have two good guys up there. I know they need a third and I want to be that guy, if not more. Right now I’m focused on making the team, making the 53-man.”

Hurst not only faces competition from veterans, but also from fellow rookies who have shown early potential.  The Ravens also added Iowa’s Brett Van Sloten and Oklahoma State’s Parker Graham to the 90-man roster, and they had a strong showing at rookie camp.

“All three of those guys, [we’re] very happy with them,” Harbaugh said. “I think they’re all going to make a run.”

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