The determination that fuels Hayden Hurst is evident by looking at him. For starters, there is more of Hurst to see. The second-year tight end has bulked up.
“Put on 20 pounds of muscle over the offseason,” Hurst said. “I’m kind of on a mission this year. I’ve got a lot to prove.”
Instead of downplaying his challenging rookie season, Hurst is using it for motivation. He was a first-round pick last year (25th overall) and expected to play a major role in the offense.
However, a stress foot fracture suffered during training camp last year forced Hurst to miss the first four games, and he was never 100 percent once he returned. He finished with 13 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown – not the kind of production Hurst was looking for as a highly-touted rookie.
Now healthy and enthusiastic about a new season, Hurst has looked good at OTAs and is ready to become the player he knows he can be.
“I feel a lot better,” Hurst said. “There was a bit of a learning curve last year just getting comfortable being out here and practicing the way these guys practice. But, a year under my belt, I definitely feel a lot more confident with where I’m at now.
“A lot of expectations last year and then the foot thing happened. Injuries happen, you just kind of go out of sight out of mind. But I’m happy it happened, because it adds a little bit more fuel to my fire.”
Hurst has bulked up to 265 pounds, but while his upper body and arms look bigger, the rest of his body looks fit. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh likes the new-look Hurst.
“When you see his build, I think you can see the difference,” Harbaugh said. “He hasn’t lost one step of speed, practiced well, so yes, he’s definitely a man on a mission. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does.”
The screw that was inserted into Hurst’s foot during surgery was removed this offseason. He believes the strength he added will put less strain on his foot, not more.
“The goal was to put on muscle to kind of protect it,” Hurst said. “Last year, coming off the Combine and everything I wasn’t able to work out like I did at South Carolina. I felt not as strong as I was, so that was a goal for me [to] get a little bit stronger so that physically I could just kind of deal with stuff.”
The Ravens have one of the NFL’s deepest tight end groups led by Hurst, Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. They are close off the field as well, and Andrews is excited to see Hurst moving fluidly during OTA’s.
“He’s done a great job of working hard,” Andrews said. “Obviously, with that foot injury it’s not an easy thing to go through being a first-round pick. You’ve got to commend him for never putting his head down. He’s a guy that’s always going to come in and work hard in anything that he does. It’s been impressive. He looks really good out there right now, and again, this tight end group is going to be something special.”
Hurst’s NFL career is just beginning to take shape. The first year was challenging, but if healthy, he expects his sophomore season to be far more rewarding. The Ravens rely heavily on their tight ends in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s offense, so there should be plenty of opportunities to go around.
“It’s fun being a tight end here and playing for Baltimore,” Hurst said. “It’s very exciting. It’s a young group, it’s a really fun group and we’re pretty close. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”