Nakita Hickles remembers first becoming aware of Jalen Hurts from the viral gum-chewing video.
You know the one.
During a Week 17 game against the New Orleans Saints, the third-year Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was standing on the sideline, missing the second of two straight games due to a sprained shoulder. With his team down 20-10 in his absence, Hurts, in a black hat and wearing a headset in place of his helmet, is captured by cameras staring forward intently at the field. While in slow motion, Hurts chews his bubble gum in an almost sensual manner. The cameraman lingers for what feels like 10 seconds.
Over on TikTok, a woman sets this clip to a very, very vulgar cover of singer Ciara’s 2013 hit song “Body Party.” The clip has amassed nearly 5 million views since the middle of January.
After Hickles, a licensed therapist from Milwaukee who only regularly watches football when her hometown Green Bay Packers are playing, saw that video of Hurts chewing gum she was instantly hooked.
“I watched it a couple times,” Hickles told Andscape. “And I was like, ‘He’s fine, let me do my Googles.’ ”
Hurts has been masterful all season for the NFC champion Eagles, finishing in the Top 5 in passer rating (101.6), QBR (66.3) and rushing touchdowns among all players (13). Had he not missed those two games late in the season, he likely would’ve been in the Top 5 in passing yards (3,701) and passing touchdowns (22).
While Hurts hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers through his first two playoff games this year (he’s averaging just under 140 passing yards with just two total passing touchdowns), the second-year starter has played error-free football, and the Eagles are in the Super Bowl for the second time in five seasons because of it.
And while a suffocating defense and collection of all-world talent on offense are important to the team’s success this year, Hurts is their unquestioned star player. From the magazine covers to the hot sauce endorsement deals (Louisiana, not Frank’s) to the MVP considerations, everyone seems to have taken notice of the former second-round draft pick.
Particularly women on the internet.
The attention on Hurts has steadily increased throughout this season.
After ranking 35th in jersey sales last season, Hurts finished in eighth in 2022. According to Fanatics, the NFL’s licensed apparel manufacturer, sales of Hurts’ merchandise increased more than 300% from 2021 to 2022. Since the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl nearly two weeks ago, Hurts women’s products have been the top seller among all players.
During the entire 2021 season, posts using #jalenhurts on TikTok generated nearly 35 million views. From Jan. 23 to Jan. 30 this year alone, the same hashtag generated 2.2 million views. Most of that can likely be attributed to Hurts playing like an MVP contender for the team with the best record in the league after the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl. But that can’t fully explain how a TikTok of Hurts’ gum-chewing video spliced into a meme from the NetFlix show Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (caption: “Me showing my kids who they daddy shoulda been”) received 1.2 million views.
Even the news of Hurts having a partner has attracted attention. “me when I find out @JalenHurts has a girlfriend,” a woman wrote, using the meme of NBA player LeBron James dropping to his knees like singer Johnny Gill after not receiving a foul call against the Boston Celtics earlier this month. There’s at least a silver lining regarding that.
“She’s Black, so that’s cool,” Hickles said. I’m here for it.”
There are any number of attributes that make Hurts the face of the NFL. He dresses like he should be walking a runway somewhere in Europe. He has a stoic and intense demeanor that signals confidence. That being said, he has a warm face and wide, welcoming smile that should have toothpaste manufacturers lining up to make him their spokesman.
“All his features on his face work for him,” Hickles said.
Kierra Bailey, a Los Angeles wardrobe stylist who has outfitted everyone from rapper J. Cole to former NBA player Dwyane Wade to rapper Dej Loaf, said the secret ingredient to Hurts’ charm is his confidence. Hurts makes the clothes rather than the clothes make him.
“He’s a handsome man who not only dresses well, [and] is a young quarterback, but walks in every week with a confidence that would make most women pay attention,” Bailey wrote in an email to Andscape. “You look good, you feel good, which I believe makes you play good.”
When you type in “Jalen Hurts” in the search engine on TikTok, some of the top autofill returns consist of some true thirstiness for the Eagles quarterback:
“Jalen Hurts fine.”
“Jalen Hurts is so fine.”
“Jalen Hurts girlfriend.”
And of course, “Jalen Hurts chewing gum.”
But that’s just the tip of the thirst iceberg for Hurts on the internet. On Twitter, the reactions to Hurts’ attractiveness range from wholesome to questionable.
And it’s not just women. “Jalen Hurts. Dude is egregiously handsome,” one male Twitter user responded to a tweet asking, “What’s the equivalent of a bad b—- for men?” The Game Day, a sports betting website, interviewed Eagles fans outside of a recent Eagles home game and asked the fans their thoughts on their quarterback. Their suspectedly sober opinions, captured on TikTok, were as follows:
“Daddy,” a man in an Eagles balaclava said.
“Handsome motherf—er, let me tell you something,” another man said.
(To be sure, the women were swooning too: “Oh, he’s hot,” one told the outlet.)
Travel over to Instagram, and you notice the trend. The photo-sharing app is where the very stylish Hurts gets to shine the brightest for his 1.2 million followers. Even at 24, Hurts should already be considered a style icon, athlete or not. To put it simply: The man don’t miss.
When Hurts posts a photo of one of his very fire pregame fits, it’s like red meat to his admirers.
In September, Hurts posted a photo of himself in a sleek burgundy two-piece fit that resembled the monochromatic silk pajamas worn by TLC in their “Creep” video.
Hurts wore a Prince-inspired purple leather jacket and purple chinos combination from the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers: “The Lord is my shepherd and he know what I want,” one woman wrote, quoting comedian Bernie Mac’s character from Friday.
There have been athletes who the ladies can’t seem to get enough of before, but rarely has that applied to the quarterback position in football. And it’s not because Black quarterbacks are inherently unattractive; it’s a smaller sample size. Only recently have Black quarterbacks been a thing in the NFL: There were a record 11 Black quarterbacks starting Week 1 this year.
Quarterbacks in recent years have been more successful than their gridiron ancestors, but few have captured the attention of the ladies quite like Hurts. For instance, Cam Newton fulfilled the “tall, dark and handsome” prototype, but where Newton seems to have lost some of his admirers is where Hurts has excelled: the wardrobe.
“Cam Newton is so handsome,” the late television writer Jas Waters tweeted in 2014. “Not sure why he dresses like he’s in an off Broadway revival of ‘Gone With The Wind’ though.”
Valecia F. — who asked that her full name not be used — became aware of Hurts just two weeks ago when she saw him being discussed on her Twitter timeline. The Houston resident and Formula One racing fan rarely watches the NFL. “If somebody’s watching it and I’m there, then I’ll tune in a little bit,” she told Andscape.
After discovering the quarterback, she went to look up Hurts’ Instagram account and scrolled the feed for a few minutes. She liked his dimpled smile and his trendy outfits.
“Oh, he cute,” she thought to herself.
During our interview, Valecia said she basically only knows that Hurts is the quarterback of the Eagles — nothing more. So, I give her more background information on him to gauge her interest.
Hurts has a love for ’90s R&B: “It’s a plus.”
Hurts has an all-female management team: “It’s a plus.”
Hurts is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc: “Is that the purple one? No comment.”
It turns out, there is one turnoff about Hurts: his age.
“Oh, my God, that’s late ’90s, ugh,” Valecia, 35, said when learning Hurts is only 24. “That’s definitely points taken away.”
It doesn’t bother everyone, though.
“When I [saw] there’s a 10-year age gap, I said, ‘You know what, I might just be Stella today,’ ” Hickles, 34, said, referring to the titular character, who was 20 years older than her lover in the 1997 novel How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
Regardless, this is music to the ears of the NFL. People like Hickles and Valecia, who have little to no desire to watch football, are tuning in, even if for the most trivial and self-serving reasons. If not for singer Rihanna headlining the halftime performance, Valecia had no intentions of watching the Super Bowl game.
That is until she discovered Hurts.
“I’ll probably tune in a little bit,” she said.