Just when you thought the Jalen Hurd saga couldn’t get any stranger, Jon Gruden has now entered the equation.

According to Hurd’s stepfather Arthur Smotherman, who has been making public appearances defending the ex-Tennessee running back this week, the former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst helped persuade Hurd to return for his junior season after he was strongly considering leaving the program at the conclusion of the 2015 season.

This latest information comes via The Read Optional, who interviewed Smotherman Tuesday:

“Somehow, (Hurd) actually ended up having a conversation with Coach Gruden before the (Outback) bowl game, Coach Gruden convinced him to stay at Tennessee. I don’t know what all was said. I don’t know if it was Coach Gruden just lovin’ on him, telling him it was going to be alright playing at Tennessee, but I can’t see any other reason they put him in I-Formation at that point. That was suppose to be a foreshadowing of what was to come this year.”

Running out of the I-Formation certainly worked for Tennessee in the bowl game, as the team rushed for 226 total yards, 130 of which came from Hurd.

During the game, Gruden was spotted on the sidelines and even spoke live at one point during the ESPN telecast:

Gruden’s inclusion here begs the question, what exactly did he say to Hurd to get him to stay? We may never know but if anyone had any doubts on the Super Bowl-winning coach’s ability to recruit, here’s proof that he can get it done.

What’s next to come in this saga is anyone’s best guess, but it appears anything is possible at this point. One thing is for certain, Saturday’s homecoming game against Tennessee Tech can’t get here fast enough for the Volunteers.