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"Football has offered so much for me," Maurice Hurst said about his decision to play in the Outback Bowl. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News

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Tampa, Fla. – Maurice Hurst had plenty of discussions with people he trusted as he worked toward a decision about playing in Michigan’s bowl game.

Ultimately, Hurst’s heart was in being with his teammates one last time. Hurst and the Wolverines continue preparations this week to face South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.

“I think it was just myself, just the person I’ve always been,” Hurst said Friday after practice, when asked why he made the decision to play. “I feel like football has always offered so much to me. It just felt like the right decision. I’ve never really been one to ever back down from any football competition, so I think it’s another opportunity to play and get to display my skills and have a good time with my teammates.”

Hurst has a bright NFL future, and is considered a likely first-round selection. He was the highest-graded player at any position by Pro Football Focus, was a consensus All-American, All-Big Ten and was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player.

He finished the season with 58 tackles, including 14 for loss and four sacks.

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Last year, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette were among the big-name players who decided not to play in their bowl games and instead prepare for the NFL Draft. Former Michigan tight end Jake Butt played in Michigan’s bowl and suffered his second ACL injury, which affected his NFL draft stock.

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown always believed Hurst would play in the bowl.

“He was going through his process with his family and talking to different people, obviously the boss (Jim Harbaugh) being one,” Brown said. “I think when it was all said and done and he had all the facts, he felt like his Michigan legacy was important.

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"His Michigan legacy was important," defensive coordinator Don Brown says about Maurice Hurst's decision to play in the Outback Bowl. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News

“I wouldn’t have blamed him either way. That’s an individual decision, as we all know that many young people across the country are now faced with. I’m just glad for him, especially the type of year he’s had, to finish out with his teammates is a really important step for him.”

Brown said he was confident Hurst would make this decision because he knows him so well.

“When he thought it through and he sorted it out, come up with a plan, he knew it was the right thing to do – for him,” Brown said. “May not be for some guys, but for him it was the right thing to do.”

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