Maurice Hurst Jr. has worn No. 73 since his Pop Warner days, bumping against football tradition while continuing to wear it at the University of Michigan and now the NFL.
It has mattered little that numbers in the 70s are generally for offensive linemen, while Hurst became a consensus All-American defensive tackle with the Wolverines and now is the left-side backup for the Oakland Raiders heading into a Monday night season-opener against the Los Angeles Rams.
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“It was my Dad’s number growing up, though it was backwards,” Hurst says. “It’s something that I’ve always had, and kept that number since I was little.”
Maurice Hurst Sr. wore No. 37 for seven seasons as a cornerback with the New England Patriots. Junior had 37 when he first began playing the sport, but had to give at least a little as he got bigger.
Leave it to Mom to come up with a solution.
“Obviously he was playing defense so it was like he can’t wear 37,” Nicole Page says. “He has to wear another number so I was like switch it to 73. It kind of stuck.”
So No. 73 it was at private school Xaverian Brothers in Westwood, Mass. Michigan let him keep 73 and he wore it proudly, amassing 133 tackles, 33.5 for loss, with 12.5 sacks, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick.
Page says Maurice wearing No. 73 “gives him a small part ... a small connection to his dad.”
“It (also) lets him be his own man.” she says. “He was No. 37, (Hurst is) No. 73 and he can make 73 his own number and he gets to be his own man with that number.”
Hurst has lost contact with his father, and efforts to reach Maurice Hurst Sr. for this story were unsuccessful.
Hurst, 23, says he’s grateful Mom has been there all the way. She was the cheerleading coach while Hurst was practicing with his Pop Warner teammates.
“She’s meant everything for me. The way she handles her business and the way that she’s always overcoming adversity in every situation just making things work. That’s been something that I’ve been able to watch growing up and be able to replicate and I owe a lot to her for all the sacrifices she’s made for me.”
Hurst made it a goal, from an early age, to make it in the NFL.
“When he was little he was saying, ‘Mom, I want to play in the NFL when I grow up’ and I was like, well, ‘You need to have a plan B.’
“Then he said if ‘I don’t play in the NFL then I’ll play in the NBA.’ I was saying, ‘You kind of need to have a Plan C.’“
His response, of course: How about Major League Baseball?
“That’s where it was going and I was like OK I get it,” she says. “He loves the sport and I support him in the sport 100 percent, and whenever somebody is gifted or talented at something or has a dream, as a parent it’s your job to support them to reach those goals and dreams.”
Hurst’s dream became a reality when the Raiders selected him in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
It continues Monday, when his mom will be in attendance at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. She’s bringing her two best friends who have been with her during some of Hurst’s high school and college games.
“She always made it out there,” he says. “She always made sure to be at all the games. She made it to every game in my senior year basically – home and away – and she always finds a way to make it there.”
Says Page: “It’s going to be very emotional as a mom. Getting to this process was long and a dream come true so it’s going to be surreal when we get there.”
Israel Abraham, an older cousin, says the bond between his aunt and Hurst maybe was a bit under-appreciated.
“As he got older, he realized all the sacrifices she’s made to put him in a situation at Xaverian and helping him with having good grades at Xaverian all the way to Michigan,” he says. “It means the world to him all the games she’s able to make because everything he does. that’s the big motivator to make his mom proud.”
Hurst thinks back to Mom giving him “a better chance” to play at the highest levels, including road trips to football camps.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up,” he says. “She always had to make sacrifices and work overtime or just re-mortgage our house. Just different things to make sacrifices to make sure I can be successful.”