Maurice Hurt is Grading Out With the Best

Some guys come mentally prepared more than others. When true freshmen football players hit the college scene, often times they get swept away with everything that is going on and get lost before being found somewhere after their first season.

Maurice Hurt may be hard to find to friends and family back home after shedding some fifty pounds this spring and getting himself into football shape. But, the Milledgeville (GA) native has done everything he can to get noticed and compete for a playing spot on a relatively full offensive line for the Gators 2006 season.

Hurt should still be going to high school. He should be hanging around other 16- and 17-year-old kids and planning for graduation and finishing out his school year. He is one of four Florida freshmen that decided to end high school early this year and enroll at the University of Florida to compete for early playing time. His short term adjustment this spring culminated in a game in front of 45,000 fans last week at The Swamp, where it was a real eye opener.

"It was great ... coming from high school you never play in front of that many people, so it was fun," Hurt said. "I think I did fine. I missed a couple of assignments but I think I graded out pretty well and did what they wanted me to do."

Hurt ended his high school football season well above the weight he would want to carry at Florida. The 350 pounds he carried in high school has been pared down to somewhere around 305, a much more manageable weight. Nicknamed "The Big Hurt" in high school, he may need to change that now to "A Little Pain." Losing the weight is something that made life a little easier for Hurt this spring.

"I lost 15 pounds before I got here and another 30 after I got here," he said. "It feels good. I move a lot better I don't get winded as much. I needed to lose weight to play the way they want me to play and I want to get better."

He has been thrown to the wolves having to face some of the best defensive linemen in the country. Marcus Thomas and Joe Cohen are two senior defensive tackles that have been through many big time wars in college already. They are two that Hurt faced a lot this spring. It was a very abrupt start to his collegiate career, but one he took on and dealt with like he was taught.

"It's been crazy," said Hurt. "I remember the first practice was so much faster than high school and the competition level is so much higher. I am just going to have to bring my toolbox like Coach (Steve) Addazio says. I need to go out there and get it every day. I just try my best. I will hold my own if I give a lot of effort."

Hurt is part of a second unit on the offensive line that played pretty well under all the circumstances. He thinks the guys on that unit will push the others and be ready of called to duty when the time comes.

"We've been up and down just like any group of young guys," he said. "I think we are going to come along and back up anyone on the first team. I think we will be able to take that role and be able to play at that level. I think by the time the season starts we will be gelling together."

For now, he has to settle back into the student part of being a student-athlete and get used to the rigors of being a college football player. There is no real time off even it it's the football "off-season."

"This isn't what I really expected," he said about the whole life of a freshman football player. "I expected it to be hard and fast but not that hard and fast. It's really difficult for me and it's a learning process. I have to earn my stripes like anyone else and I just have to try and get through it. I'm just trying to get better and improve."

"The hardest part is the mental part. You are in a new place away from home, working out hard, with all the new people and classes on top of that. You know in high school you get out at 3 o'clock and it's not like that. It is more about being on your own.

He currently has a 3.0 in his classes and as an early enrollee he has never had a problem in the classroom. That part seems like it will take care of itself. Hurt wants to maintain his current level of competitiveness, which in turn will yield the rewards of playing in front of 90,000 screaming fans and playing for his new school.

"My personal goals are just to get better," he said. "I want to get stronger and faster. I want to be ready in the off-season so if I am needed to play I can play. I don't want to be needed and not be able to perform. They say I have a possibility of playing, and to get ready to go. It's a long summer. We will just have to see when the fall gets here."

Maurice Hurt skipped a senior spring of leisure in high school to combat the best in college football and try and earn a spot of playing time on the Florida Gators offensive line. He gave up sleeping through class for studying hard and maintaining a high GPA at the collegiate level. He lost 50 pounds of unnecessary body weight just to make himself a better man.

The Florida offensive staff wants their offensive guards to be road graders. They want guys that will attack the defense and go after them with everything they have on every play. Maurice Hurt is road grading through every obstacle he faces so far at Florida. Is there any doubt that many future SEC defenders will be on the ground looking up at this man some day?

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