The vast majority of NFL coaches have experienced the grind of playing football. Not many understand the path that Hayden Hurst took.
Cincinnati Bengals tight ends coach James Casey does.
Hurst and Casey coincidentally were both drafted by the MLB as pitchers before enrolling in college and becoming tight ends for their respective programs. Casey turned an insanely productive two years at Rice University into a seven-year career in the NFL. Hurst is already four years and three teams into his NFL journey after his three years at South Carolina netted him a first-round contract.
Despite an age gap of nine years, there’s much common ground between player and coach.
“It’s crazy with so much of the similarities,” Casey told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “There’s a connection with guys who played minor-league baseball. It’s hard to explain. Just the grind of being on buses all over the place. The (little) locker rooms. Being there in extended spring training. It’s fun to talk. Right now, we’re trying to install the offense, but we’ll be able to tell a bunch of stories.”
According to Hurst, some stories have already been told.
“It’s kind of weird. We sat down and talked when I first signed. We were telling war stories,” Hurst explained. “‘This guy understands.’ I’m meeting with him throughout the day, getting caught up in the playbook. This is a make-or-break year. I’m all in. I’ll do whatever I can do.”
Having a unique bond with the coach you see every day can only help make this make-or-break year Hurst has in front of him. He’s coming into an offense in desperate need of athleticism at the tight end spot.
There will be opportunities for him to be more productive than he’s ever been in the league, and it sounds like he’s got a coach that understands him as well as anyone.