Thundering Hurd

By Steve Brown

An exhausted Sam Hurd panted back to the sidelines.

The NIU wide receiver had just caught a 19-yard touchdown pass that, with a simple extra point, would put his team in a 38-38 tie with Northwestern.

The offense had done its job – the Huskies were in the game, but now it was time for a rest.

Maybe not.

“C’mon, let’s go!”

Hurd glanced up at his coaches. For the entire drive up the field, the coaches had known something Hurd hadn’t: If NIU scored, coach Joe Novak already knew he would go for the two-point conversion and the win.

The 6-foot-2 senior hustled back to the huddle, then lined up on the left side of the field. Hurd had just caught a touchdown pass from Horvath, and the coaches thought they would try their luck with Hurd again.

But as he lined up, something wasn’t right. The play wasn’t going to work. He tried to call a different option to Horvath.

Too late.

Horvath snapped the ball and quickly threw to his left. Hurd slipped on the end zone grass and the ball sailed over his head, and with it, NIU’s hopes of a win.

That’s it. Game over.

Hurd was livid. But there was nothing he could do.

“It was the right call,” Hurd said. “Our defense probably couldn’t have stopped them at that point.”

Three weeks later, Hurd relaxed on his bed – one of his few Saturdays off during football season. He’s learned to appreciate them.

“See this? This is where I’ll be all day,” Hurd said as he patted his bed while watching the Michigan-Michigan State football game Saturday.

He didn’t really care who won, but when Michigan kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired, he could sympathize with the Spartans. After all, he’d been in the same situation only weeks prior.

“I watch and think about what we could’ve done,” Hurd said. “That, and I watch Mike Hart and think, ‘That boy can run.’”

For Hurd, it’s all a part of the learning process – a process which began years ago when he first started playing football.