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Today's word on journalism

January 13, 2009

Breakneck:

"I get the feeling that the 24-hour news networks are like the bus in the movie 'Speed.' If they stop talking for a second, they think they'll blow up."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)

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Aggie Roy Hurst: 'It's sports or the street -- I chose sports'

By Tim Olsen

December 10, 20008 | USU senior cornerback Roy Hurst has seen a lot in his 22 years. Growing up in east Oakland, Calif. he was forced to grow up quickly and make a decision most are not faced with a life in sports or a life on the streets.

"When you're in a neighborhood like that either you join the kids on the street and do that type of stuff, hustle around, or you get into sports and try to make a way out with that," Hurst said. "Some do it with education, but it's mainly sports or the street life and I chose to play sports."

Hurst started early, playing multiple sports. He said his first love was basketball, but he also played baseball and then he found football.

"I played football on the street a couple times and fell in love with it, and then I started playing it in high school," he said. "That kept me away from the street life."

Family influence has also played a major role in Hurst's life and decision-making. His mom, dad, grandmother, four sisters and close cousins have been big factors in keeping him on the right path.

That path led him to Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa, Calif., where he played both cornerback and safety. Hurst recorded 37 tackles with one pass break up and one forced fumble in 2006, to earn first-team all-NorCal Conference honors.

After his sophomore year, the Aggies came calling. However, before USU could have him, they had to pass inspection from his grandmother, who is the head of the family and ran everything.

"She wasn't going to let us get out of the house without asking every single question about Utah State, Logan, and us as a coaching staff," USU cornerback coach John Rushing said. "She made sure she did her background check on us and made sure she was sending her grandson to a good place."

When it came down to it, Utah State just made sense to Hurst and his family. It allowed him to stay relatively close to home, which was an extra incentive as he had a daughter born close to signing day. He also liked the coaching staff, the safety of the community, and the academic reputation of USU.

In the end, it was a series of violent events that cemented Hurst's decision to attend USU.

Hurst had been training with one of his cousins, a fellow football player who had recently signed with Arizona State. About a month before Hurst's cousin was supposed to leave, he was injured in a shooting at a nightclub. That was the final straw for Hurst.

"A couple weeks before that we were out at the same kind of club environment and a shooting happened there and my cousin that I treat like my brother got shot," Hurst said.

"That was when I was like, 'I have to get out of here, this isn't the place for me," and I got out of the bay area life as quickly as possible. It was a great opportunity to come here to one of the safest places in America."

Once on campus, it didn't take long for Hurst to fit in.

"I think sometimes those environments help you grow up faster, you don't have a choice. You've got to grow up and be a man and grow up and take care of business," Rushing said. "A lot of times some guys come in and take awhile to develop, he came in mature and ready to go and he fit right in and did everything we asked him."

During his junior season, his first at USU, Hurst played in all 12 games making 36 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions while playing safety. This season he switched over to cornerback and has 33 tackles and two interceptions through 10 games. More important to Hurst is the fact that he's set to graduate after this semester.

"A lot of people don't get the opportunity to get their school paid for, let alone go to college. For me to go to college, get my school paid for and do the thing I love is a tremendous opportunity," Hurst said. "I'm going to have to make sure I take advantage of my degree because I know a lot of people don't finish and get that degree. I know that if I wouldn't have played football I probably wouldn't have been able to go to college because college is expense. I'm glad that this path took me here."

Rushing could not stress the importance of scholarships enough.

"That's the beauty of a scholarship for any of these kids whether they come from a bad background or a great background, it's a chance to get your education paid for," he said. "But for Roy it's his means of survival, it's his key to the future. His scholarship and playing football was one of his only options, this was his ticket to his future."

Now with graduation looming and the season coming to a close, the future is at hand for Hurst. The sports management major said his immediate plans include heading home to spend some time with his family and especially his daughter.

After the holidays, Hurst said he plans to return to USU and prepare for the Aggies pro day where he will showcase his talents in front of NFL scouts. Depending on the direction that path takes, he plans to pursue a career in coaching as well as help his family start a "soul food" restaurant.

Hurst is one of many student-athletes who have helped Utah State become nationally recognized for its outstanding graduation rate. Just this year the American Football Coaches Association recognized USU as one of 46 teams in the country that graduates more than 70 percent of its football athletes.

Utah State was one of only three WAC schools to be recognized, and the only school from the state of Utah.

"Our student athletes are some of the best students academically in the country, we're top of the WAC all the time," said Director of Annual Giving for the Big Blue Scholarship Fund, Tom Hale. "We have a good bunch of students here as well as some great athletes students and athletes. Roy is a very fine man, it's neat to see that it [the scholarship] has changed his life."

Rushing agreed.

"The sky is the limit for Roy." he said. "The beauty of him is that he can go into any situation, he can go back into the inner city and work there and do a great job there, as well as go into any place across the country and do a great job."

Rushing also said players like Hurst make it easy for him to go to places like east Oakland and recruit the kids in that area. He said Hurst will be a hero when he returns home because people have seen what he's come through and where he is now.

To those in a similar situation, Hurst gave this advice: "Look to the role models in your life. The roads get hard, but just steer yourself down the right path," he said.

"You're going to make mistakes, just bounce back and learn from the mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, I made a lot of mistakes coming up and just took those bad situations and turned them into good and learned from them."

For Hurst and those like him, the value of the Aggie football program and other USU athletic programs are measured by much more than wins and losses.

"It changes lives and that's the neat thing about the scholarship fund and what if provides for student athletes," Hale said.

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