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View from the O-Zone: Fire burns in Hurns


JACKSONVILLE – He worked on his own, but that's not the whole story. Not really.

That's because whenever Allen Hurns worked during the weeks that followed last season – during the six weeks he spent in Jacksonville, running routes very much by himself – he had his thoughts with him. He had goals, too.

Maybe most importantly, he had a memory. And while it's not right to attribute all of what the second-year Jaguars receiver has accomplished and what he wants to keep accomplishing to how he entered the NFL, it's a part of his story.

And yes, he figures the memory always will be there.

It will be motivation, too, and when the motivation is as strong as it is for Hurns, you're never alone when you're working. Not really.

"That fire is always going to be within from a motivation standpoint," Hurns said.

Want to know why Hurns made it in the NFL?

Want to know why it's hard to imagine he won't keep making it? Why he emerged from being an undrafted free agent to the most productive wide receiver on the Jaguars' roster as a rookie?

It has something to do with his ability, which was better than what many NFL types thought when he went undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft from the University of Miami. It had a little something to do with opportunity, coming to a young team with a young receiving corps.

But mostly, it had to do with work, and how that work has shaped him.

"He has desire, and he has a love of football," Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan said recently.

Here's sort of all you need to know about Hurns:

Sullivan didn't say that last quote immediately after a recent practice during Jaguars 2015 Organized Team Activities. He said it after the rest of the team had left the field, and after he spent several minutes with one Jaguars receiver running routes after practice.

That receiver was Hurns, and Sullivan said the scene was far from surprising.

"He's not satisfied to be just a player," Sullivan said. "I think he wants elite status."

Hurns isn't elite yet, but after one season in the NFL, he's in a good place. After catching 51 passes for 677 yards and a team-high six touchdowns as a rookie, he is solidly in the Jaguars' receiver corps. He is a reliable player, and while fellow second-year veterans Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson both have dealt with injuries in a little more than a year with the team, Hurns has been remarkably healthy and available.

"I pride myself on that," he said.

He prides himself on production, too, which is why Hurns spent the first six weeks of the offseason doing what he did.

Much understandably has been made of the work done by quarterback Blake Bortles this offseason, but Hurns has a similar story. After two weeks off in January, he returned to EverBank Field. He couldn't work with position coaches, but he could be in the weight room with strength coaches. And while he couldn't be on the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields, he worked out on his own, driving across the St. Johns River to Bishop Kenny High School, working out on the school's football field, opening a notebook that contained specific routes and techniques and running routes. On his own.

"I had an agenda as far as which routes I wanted to get in," he said. "I wanted to be smart as far as not overworking my body, but I had a plan of what routes I wanted to work each day."

That was his four-day-a-week routine for the six weeks that were the bulk of the time between the end of the season and the beginning of the Jaguars' offseason program. Sullivan said recently it's easy to see the results. Crisper routes. A bit faster in and out of breaks.

"He's all about doing the little things," Sullivan said.

And while Sullivan was right that part of the work was about being elite, Hurns said there was something more basic to his motivation. Yes, there's a strong love of football, but just as real is the memory of how he entered the NFL.

It might not be the sole motivation, but Hurns said without question the memory of going undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft has stuck. "When will that not motivate you?" he was asked.

He smiled.

"Oh never," he said. "Never. That's one thing that will always be with me. People say it doesn't matter once you get into the league, and it really doesn't, but at the end of the day there are times you think about it. "Not getting drafted, it's always going to stick with you.

"There are going to be days you're going to wake up and it's going to give you that fire."

And with a fire like that, even when you're working by yourself, you're not working alone. Not really.

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