It was about 8:30 at night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last Monday when Nikki Godfrey’s phone started blowing up. She figured something was wrong with her cell battery and was busy wrapping up her day, so she didn’t pay it much mind. The rest of the family, including 6-year old Alexander, was glued to the TV, watching current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts lead the Oklahoma Sooners to a Big 12 championship game win against the Baylor Bears on ESPNU.
Little did they know the message waiting for them on Nikki’s phone was from Hurts himself.
It was about a backpack.
Alexander and his 8-year-old brother, Brayden, are extreme football fanatics. They both play quarterback for their flag football teams and will dissect old NCAA games — rewinding the tape to study a play over and over again — “like two little old men having conversations about the game. It’s quite hilarious,” Nikki said.
Brayden is a super fan of New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and asked for a Newton backpack for the new school year. No problem. Nikki went online and found one without much effort. Alexander is a Hurts guy. Hurts’ NFL merchandise isn’t as accessible since he’s a rookie, so Nikki asked her mother Cynthia to craft something up and she did, printing Jalen Hurts’ name onto Alexander’s blue backpack with a Cricut machine. Nikki posted a picture of it to Twitter in late July and forgot about it, until the notifications on her phone started going wild weeks later.
Hurts had gotten a blue backpack, too, turns out, and had Alexander’s name printed on it.
— Nikki G (@nikkgphd) July 29, 2020
— Jalen Hurts (@JalenHurts) August 18, 2020
Alexander didn’t find out about it until the next morning, and when he did, he was “over the moon,” according to Nikki. He immediately made a sign thanking Hurts and had his mom post it to social media. The backpack goes everywhere with him. He goes to virtual school and was still able to show it off to his classmates.
“It’s just given him a sense of pride,” Nikki said.
The story grew over the weekend as Hurts surprised Alexander by appearing on screen as the family was being interviewed on ESPN SportsCenter.
“Alexander, man, I just want to say thank you for the love you’ve shown me. Appreciate the kind words,” said Hurts, who has decided his new friend’s nickname is “Alexander the Great” and he might have to carry the backpack around with him this season for good luck. “You can do anything you put your mind to. I just want you to know that.”
Baton Rouge is LSU country, but Alexander was taken by Hurts’ backstory: how his dad coached him growing up, just like Alexander’s dad coaches him; and how Hurts persevered after losing his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama and went on to flourish at Oklahoma.
“He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s fast,” Alexander said of Hurts. “He’s a good person, and he’s a champion.”
Hurts, 22, told Alexander that three jerseys were on their way to his house so he wouldn’t have to worry about Hurts swag again.
The coronavirus pandemic has presented its set of challenges to Nikki and her family, as it has for so many. Besides the virtual schooling, their flag football youth organization has delayed the start of the season, with the hopes of kicking off in October.
“They’re kind of sad and missing out on their friends, on sports, on the camaraderie,” Nikki said of her boys.
Hurts’ outreach was most welcomed.
“As a mom, I’m really touched because I think he’s a great example, he’s a model of perseverance, of teamwork, of all the things you want your kids to display even outside of athletics,” she said. “I’m excited that they get to be recognized by him, that he sees them and that he sees the importance of reaching out to these young fans that are out there.”