10 Questions With James Hurst

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1. What’s the most challenging part of being an NFL offensive linemen?

“Our job is all about consistency. You can have 59 or 60 perfect plays in a game, and you have that one bad play and you have a ‘bad’ game. It’s knowing that you have to be on every snap. You can’t have any lapses.”

2. What was it like being an undrafted rookie who was thrown into the fire as a starting left tackle in the playoffs in Pittsburgh and New England?

“My head might have been spinning my first couple starts. Luckily, those weren’t my first starts. By the time the playoffs came around, I had a better handle on what an NFL game was like. But also being a rookie, I think I was so naïve as to how important and how big and rare the playoffs were going to be. I just assumed that every year you go to the playoffs. Probably not understanding that helped me keep the pressure off because I didn’t quite grasp the situation. It was a lot of fun, though.”

3. How much did you thank Kelechi Osemele for annihilating a pass rusher that had gotten by you in that Steelers playoff game?

“I should have spent all the money I earned that year on him. He definitely saved my life on that play – and Joe’s life. It was a touchdown too, so it was a huge play.”

4. How much pride do you take in being the guy who can start at any position, wherever and whenever needed?

“I take a great deal of pride in that. It’s mostly just knowing that I can be relied upon. If the team needs me to be somewhere, I can get the job done and play at a high level. I take pride in that. It’s tough [to switch positions]. Every position is different, every stance is different, the footwork and the players going against you are going to vary. But I enjoy that I can be counted on to get the job done, and that the coaches trust me to move me and shift around to fill in the gaps we may have week to week.”

5. Were you the top offense tackle prospect in the country coming out of high school? And how did you end up at North Carolina.

“I think I was No. 2. I think No. 1 was Shon Coleman. It was really their offensive line coach, Sam Pittman, who is now the offensive line coach at Georgia. He came to my high school and he was the only coach that I remember that did not negatively recruit. Most people come in and say, ‘Well, don’t go there because they’re like this’ or ‘Don’t go there because they’re this.’ He only talked about UNC and what they had to offer and was real positive. I really appreciated that and thought it said a lot about who he was. But it was a pretty easy choice for me. I really wanted to go there.”

6. When did you know you were going to play in the NFL?

“I don’t think I thought about that much [in high school]. I was so excited to play Division 1. Obviously, the NFL is everyone’s dream, and it was my dream, for sure. But in the moment, I was so pumped to play Division 1 football. I wanted to start as a freshman.”

7. How much do you feel like your smarts help your game?

“I think a good bit. That’s a more unique trait that I have. Understanding the entire defense, the entire picture of our offensive game plan definitely helps me out. It puts me in the right position a lot of times to be kind of ahead of the movement or different looks the defenses give you. I’m not the greatest athlete in the world, so that’s a big part to even the scales. I was excited, because majoring in sports science, there’s so much carryover to football, like nutrition, working out, recovery, and all that stuff. I was learning a lot that helped me in football as well.”

8. I hear you want to start a coffee shop when you’re done playing. How’d that come about?

“One of my wife’s best friends lives in Portland. I think this past summer was the fourth year we’ve done this, but we go out to Portland and stay for a week. In the Pacific Northwest, coffee is a really big deal. When we got out there, we just fell in love with it – the culture around it, the ins and outs of it. Each year, we learn more and more. I just grew to like it a lot – coffee itself, but also how to make it, where it comes from, what makes it different, all those sorts of things. I want to use a coffee shop as a way to minister to people and to grow relationships. In a coffee shop, you see some of the same people every single day. So I think I would enjoy making good coffee and also interacting with people in the community and having a good time with that every day. I’m applying for the [Master of Business Administration] program that the NFL offers. I’m going to do that in the offseason, so hopefully whenever my NFL career comes to an end, I’ll be in a better position to have knowledge on how to run a coffee shop successfully and have confidence in understanding what I need to do. I might ask [former Ravens lineman/mathematician] John Urschel for a few tips here and there on balancing the books.”

9. You’re a board game lover. Where did that come from and what board games are your favorite?

“It grew on me slowly. Different groups playing board games all over the place; it’s a way to get together with people and just hang out. The strategy involved and everything is so much fun. My favorites? That’s hard. One of my first favorites was Dead of Winter – Pandemic, which is a cooperative game, I like that. Every new game you buy is your favorite. I probably have 25 or 30 games and it’s growing at a scary pace.”

10. How tough is it being an NFL offensive lineman and having a puppy at home?

“Ahh, yes, that’s been a big balance this year. Luckily, my wife is amazing and she’s handled a lot of that, getting up in the middle of the night when necessary to let me sleep. It’s been great, been fun. I know Amanda likes to have the puppy at home when I’m on the road. I like that she has a companion. It’s been great; I love the puppy, love her. It’s really fun.”

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