Ann Arbor — You never know who your Uber driver might be — maybe it will be Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr.
Hurst has been on the Uber clock this summer, logging miles and earning money, in addition to interning at Blue Lion Fitness in Ann Arbor.
“I’ve just done it for extra cash, pretty much that’s it,” the affable 6-foot-2, 282-pound lineman said. “I definitely like the flexibility. I can work whenever, which helps with my schedule with (football) workouts and working at Blue Lion Fitness.”
Once camp begins Aug. 8, however, Hurst’s Uber days will be over. But he’s enjoyed the experience, especially longer trips to the airport which net $22.
And every once in a while, someone recognizes him.
“A couple of people have said good luck with football and stuff like that,” he said.
In addition to driving Uber and working at Blue Lion, Hurst spent 16 days in Israel in a study-abroad program. Teammates Delano Hill and Chris Wormley also made the trip.
It was an eye-opening excursion for Hurst, who had never before traveled abroad.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be what it was, especially with how Israel is portrayed in the news and how people think it’s just like a bunch of terrorist attacks,” he said. “I felt more safe there than in any major city here.”
Officials from Michigan’s Center for Global and Intercultural Study worked with PeacePlayers International, an organization that hopes to “unify communities in conflict through sport,” according to its website. The group worked with Israeli and Palestinian youth ranging in ages from six through 15.
“We were trying to bring together the kids in Israel through sport,” Hurst said. “We talked about the history of Israel and the conflict that’s going on and how it can be resolved through sport. PeacePlayers International brought the Israeli and Palestinian kids together.”
He learned a lot during the trip, and he was able to be a tourist at times, too. He visited Jordan, floated in the Dead Sea, and was introduced to the wonders of hummus.
“The experience was fascinating,” Hurst said. “Getting to hang out with the kids and with the language barrier it was really something different that I haven’t been used to. But they all got along with us and they were really fascinated we were there.”
In name only
Hurst is a Massachusetts guy. He grew up outside of Boston raised by his mother, Nicole Page. he shares a name with his absent father, Maurice Hurst, who was a defensive back for the Patriots for seven years.
He doesn’t, however, express the pangs of loss. Not having his dad around is all he has known.
“I never had him in my life, which is a little bit different than people whose parents have been divorced,” Hurst said. “They’ve had their father in their life and then he’s gone. It’s kind of like, I don’t really know what it would be like or what it is like. It’s normal to me.”
What this has given Hurst is direction.
“It makes me want to be a great father to my kids when I’m older,” he said. “It’s brought me closer with my mom and made me grow up a little bit more.”
Nicole Page worked hard to allow her son to attend Xaverian Brothers, a private school Hurst describes as having rich tradition.
He admits to not always being a devoted student — but that has changed. He is majoring in sports management and hopes to work on a master’s degree in supply chain management.
“It took me a while to adjust going from a public middle school to a private middle school with all boys,” Hurst said. “I definitely am doing a lot better here. I just decided to do well when I got here. I had an opportunity to start over and kind of change the way I was behaving in class, going from someone who joked around in class to focusing on my schoolwork and things that are important.”
Football is important, too. Like the rest of his defensive teammates, he has been learning from a new defensive coordinator, Don Brown. But unlike his teammates, he had a prior relationship with Brown.
Brown, who shaped Boston College into the top statistical defense in the country last season, first recruited Hurst to play for the Eagles.
“All my friends at BC were texting me and telling me, ‘You’re really lucky. Coach Brown is a great guy,’ ” Hurst said.
Like his defensive line teammates, Hurst is excited about the possibilities because of the veteran nature of the group and the entire defense.
But what Hurst has proven is his versatility — he can be plugged in where needed.
“It’s really interesting how we’ve been doing things here,” Hurst said. “It’s almost like we have two lines, almost like hockey, where you can take one guy out and put another in, like interchangeable parts. Yeah, there’s going to be a starter, but whoever the backup is isn’t considered a backup because we’re going to be playing the same number of snaps.”
Hurst is on tract to graduate in December and will consider his NFL options after the season. Should he decide to stay for his final year of eligibility, he will have graduate-school options.
“I’m trying not to think about (going pro), but it’s hard not to,” he said.
His immediate focus is this season and playing with the teammates with whom he’s essentially grown up.
“It’s kind of our last year all together,” Hurst said. “This is kind of it for us. As a group, as a defense, all these people we came in with, it’s our last chance together and we’ve been through a lot.
“It just means a lot to us now.”