COLUMBIA, S.C. – Hayden Hurst could be wearing orange and blue Saturday had things gone differently a couple years ago.
The South Carolina tight end had Florida on his list as he explored his college football options when he retired from minor league baseball, but the door was quickly closed.
“They said they didn’t have room for me,” Hurst said. “I figured if they didn’t want me, I could come here and try to play against them.”
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Hurst opted to walk on at South Carolina instead. On Saturday, the Jacksonville native will play in Gainesville for the first time as a Gamecock, as he leads the team in receptions in his second season.
“Like you said, it has been circled on my calendar for a little while,” Hurst said. “So I’m excited to get down there and play.”
Hurst signed with Florida State to play baseball when he graduated from Bolles High School, where he played briefly with Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates after the team made him their 17th-round selection in the 2012 MLB Draft.
He said he was a fan of all sorts of schools growing up, but his sister loved the Gators because his grandfather went to Florida. His sister, Kylie, now attends Florida.
“I support them a very small bit,” he said of his sister attending UF. “That’s about as far as my devotion goes.”
Hurst was placed on scholarship at South Carolina in the spring of 2016 after a year spent as a walk-on. He has been a valuable part of the offense, grabbing 35 receptions for 426 yards and proving a key piece of the offense early in the season as it went through growing pains.
Now, Hurst has the chance to go to a school that didn’t have room for him as a walk-on and show them what they missed out on.
“Hopefully,” he said. “That’s the plan.”