HOOVER, AL (WIS) - Do you remember where you were or what you did on May 11, 2014?
South Carolina junior tight end Hayden Hurst does. That's the day that he decided that his playing days on the baseball diamond were over. After chatting with Pittsburgh Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway via FaceTime, there was one thing from that conversation that stuck with him.
"I said, 'Listen. This is what's going on. I'm not having success. I think I'm done,'" Hurst recalled. "And he said, 'Well, Hayden, I hope there's something you can stick to in your life,' and I'll never forget those words."
Those words are replayed over and over in Hurst's head as he prepares himself day in and day out in Columbia.
Hurst immediately shifted his attention to playing college football at South Carolina. He contacted former quarterback Perry Orth and former wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier, Jr., and got the ball rolling.
Since then, Hurst has burst onto the scene and been a tremendous factor for the Gamecocks offense. In 12 games as a walk-on freshman in 2015, Hurst made eight catches for 106 yards. A year later, he went on to set a single-season record for receptions (48) and receiving yards (616) by a tight end.
But it was Broadway's words that helped Hurst commit to giving everything he has to be the player he is today.
"As hard as it was for those two and a half years with the Pirates and not being successful and being down and all that stuff, it humbled me," Hurst said. "It's made me work hard and that's kind of my mindset every day I walk into the stadium. There's no one in the country that's going to outwork me. I'm going to work out twice a day. I'm going to work out hard. This is what I'm going to do. I'm going to eat right. That's the mindset that I have now."
That work ethic has not only earned Hurst a spot on the team, but it's earned him a spot as a permanent team captain with Carolina.
"I think the first thing I would say it's a delight to coach the guy," said South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp. "The guy lives in the weight room. If he's not there, he's in the film room. He's asking questions. He is as coachable a guy as there is on our football team and that I've been associated with. But he brings an element of maturity to the group, and because baseball didn't work for him, he chose another avenue, and so to have that maturity on our football team, to see his work ethic and the example he sets for the younger players is invaluable for me as a coach."
The things that Hurst has brought to the table have made the former Pittsburgh Pirate and the rest of his teammates better and it showed last year when South Carolina came away with six wins. This year, Hurst and the Gamecocks are looking to win the SEC East.
"Why not now?" Hurst said. "Coach tells us every day we're never going to show to any stadium in the country to lose a football game. He wants to win. He wants to win now. With the program he has in place, why not win now?"