It would be strange if Alabama fans didn’t feel anything watching Jalen Hurts these days.

The MVP finalist, Super Bowl-bound former Crimson Tide and Oklahoma quarterback is many things. Physically and mentally tough? No doubt. Dynamic? Absolutely. As easy to root for as anybody in the NFL? Yeah, though some Joe Burrow fans might have something to say about that.

Speaking of Burrow, who came up 1 game short of making a return trip to the Super Bowl, his 2021 season opened the door for the new awkward norm with NFL superstars. Burrow, of course, transferred from Ohio State to LSU in the middle of his college career. Ask some Buckeyes fans and they’ll tell you that meant he gets to be “claimed” by Ohio State and LSU. Why? He spent his first 3 years of college in Columbus before becoming a generational player at LSU.

Just like with Burrow, there’s now a debate over who gets to claim Hurts. If you ask me, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

If you ask Joel Klatt, it’s an open and shut case with Burrow and Hurts:

I slightly disagree with that position. First of all, Hurts and Burrow had entirely different college careers pre-transfer.

Burrow didn’t start a game in his 3 years at Ohio State. He wasn’t going to start unless he transferred ahead of Year 4 because Dwayne Haskins was going to win that job even if Burrow stayed in Columbus. Hurts, on the other hand, was SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman at Alabama and he led the program to a pair of SEC titles and national championship berths (including the 2017 national title) in his 2 years as Alabama’s starter. That’s not even including a junior season in which he came off the bench and led a 4th-quarter comeback to help Alabama beat Georgia in the 2018 SEC Championship.

Klatt and others who say that the situations are the same are, in my opinion, lacking context even though this is obviously just about bragging rights for fan bases. I get that.

Burrow didn’t throw a single meaningful pass in an Ohio State uniform. Hurts had 2-plus seasons worth of meaningful passes in Tuscaloosa.

Where I’ll side with Klatt and the crowd who say “all that matters is where you finished school” is that Hurts wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing if he had stayed at Alabama. It’s easy to forget just how good he was at Oklahoma. He made plays with his arm that we didn’t see during his 2 years as a starter at Alabama. Hurts looked like someone who truly built on the 2018 progress he showed as a backup working with then-Alabama quarterbacks coach Dan Enos. With Lincoln Riley, Hurts was a Heisman Trophy runner-up for a season in which he exceeded 5,000 total yards and he had 53 touchdowns (32 passing, 20 rushing, 1 receiving).

So what does that mean? It means that Alabama fans are foolish if they omit the Oklahoma part of Hurts’ story. If they refer to him strictly as “former Alabama quarterback,” that’s not right.

Hurts was benched. He lost his job. He would’ve been a late-round draft pick if he’d entered the NFL after Year 3 at Alabama, and his path to playing time would been much longer than being a Round 2 guy who was QB2 from the jump. His NFL career isn’t what it is today without his move to Oklahoma. That’s undeniable.

If you look back at NFL Draft picks per school, Alabama doesn’t claim Hurts there, nor should it. But when DeVonta Smith is asked in a post-NFC Championship locker room interview why he and Hurts are so stoic after monumental victories, you better believe Alabama is going to flex with an answer like this:

There’s nothing wrong with that because Smith is the one giving Alabama the credit in that moment. It’s not taking credit away from anything. It’s simply sharing a quote from a former Alabama superstar who credited the program for instilling that mindset.

This, however, is where I’d have a little bit more of an issue:

Two problems.

Making a custom graphic with a crimson background definitely looks like a program trying to take ownership, though I suppose that because those are also Oklahoma’s colors, you could let that slide.

But “built by Bama” without any mention of Oklahoma doesn’t sit well. I have no problem with Sooner fans flooding Alabama’s mentions. Could you not have simply done something like an Alabama logo with an “X” and an Oklahoma logo also in that graphic? And maybe just not have the “#BuiltByBama” hashtag? Maybe it’s a bit ambitious to call for a shared tweet, but come on.

This is different than Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen having their JUCOs brag about their feats. That’s no different than a high school claiming a player because they needed that step to go to a higher level of football. Burrow and Hurts needed to leave Ohio State and Alabama so that they could get playing time, which is entirely different. Seeing those schools, which have the most NFL bragging rights of anyone, pretend that all-important additional chapter didn’t happen is just bizarre.

Alabama is allowed to tweet pro-Hurts things. If they want to retweet the NFL account after Hurts does something amazing or if they produce a congratulatory social media post, that’s perfectly fine. There is, however, a fine line between showing pride for someone who meant a ton to the program and claiming a player who was benched.

Hurts needed Alabama and Oklahoma to get to where he is today. We should acknowledge that. We should also acknowledge that Hurts always points to his national championship benching as the turning point in his career. I guess Alabama will continue to spin that as just how the program taught Hurts how to deal with adversity. After all, #BuiltByBama is better for retweets and shares than #BenchedByBama (or maybe it’s not?).

We should establish some unwritten rules for dealing with transfers, especially as the portal era begins to spit out high-level NFL players. It’s OK to break these situations down with a bit of nuance. It’s not our job to rewrite history; it’s our job to use history as context to provide the full story.

If the Tide claim that Hurts is strictly #BuiltByBama, well, flood those mentions, non-Alabama fans.