TUSCALOOSA -- As images of torrential rain, 100-plus mph winds and disastrous flooding swept across television screens nationwide this weekend, Jalen Hurts did his best to steer clear of it.While many across the country have watched in dismay as southeastern Texas has been inundated by Hurricane Harvey over the last three days, leading to devastating flooding in and around Houston, the Channelview (Texas) native couldn't completely avoid the reality of what was happening back home.
"It's tough just seeing the freeways are flooded, a lot of stuff going down," Alabama's sophomore quarterback said Monday. "I've seen a picture where water is up to a stoplight, like 20 feet in the air. All we can do is stay strong and keep them in our prayers."
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts on Houston, where his friends and family are thankfully safe: pic.twitter.com/dafVum25YP— Terrin Waack (@terrinvictoria) August 28, 2017
But as the top-ranked Crimson Tide prepare for arguably the toughest game of the season in a bowl-like opener against No. 3 Florida State on Saturday in Atlanta, the 18-year-old quarterback has done his best to keep focused on what he can control -- namely preparing for the Seminoles -- and not on what he can't.
"(There's) a lot of stuff going down there, but I'm praying for them and keeping them in my prayers," Hurts said. "I'll definitely be playing for them Saturday."
Hurts, whose father Averion Hurts Sr. is the football coach at Channelview High, said his family's home has managed to stay relatively dry and free of damage and still has electricity.
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The same can't be said for some of their neighbors.
"It's a blessing for me because my house hasn't really been damaged, my street hasn't really had a lot of flooding, but everything around it is pretty bad," Hurts said. "Woodforest (Boulevard) and Beltway Eight and all that (are flooded), just a lot going on. But my family is good and that's a blessing."
There's a viral video Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez posted to Twitter on Sunday showing streets through a suburban Channelview neighborhood completely underwater, with some of the water flooding neighboring houses.
Jalen Hurts said he's spoken with his family back in Houston and they're safe. Said he'll be playing for them on Saturday— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) August 28, 2017
Hurts isn't the only member of Alabama's football team affected by the flooding around Houston.
Junior kick returner/receiver Xavian Marks is from Rosenberg, which is just 30 minutes southwest of Houston, while senior defensive back Tony Brown hails from Beaumont, which is 80 miles east. Redshirt freshman Deionte Thompson is from Orange, near the Louisiana border.
Head coach Nick Saban said the team has reached out to the families of players that might be affected and offered their assistance, but none seemed to express any significant need.
"If anybody is having any issues and we can be of any assistance to them, we've certainly let them know that we're here to try and help in any way that we can," Saban said. "We want our players to feel comfortable that their families are not in any danger or in harm's way."
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While Hurts will undoubtedly still be thinking about friends and neighbors still dealing with the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, he also understands the significance of what awaits the team at 7 p.m. Saturday inside the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
"It's Florida State week, opening week this week," Hurts said. "(The people of Houston are) in my prayers back home, but we're focused. As a team, we know what we have in front of us and we have to get ready."
This article is written by Alex Byington from The Decatur Daily, Ala. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.