From left, the Eagles' Jalen Hurts, Fletcher Cox and A.J....

From left, the Eagles' Jalen Hurts, Fletcher Cox and A.J. Brown after the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 29 in Philadelphia. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

PHOENIX — Jalen Hurts was 16 years old in 2015 when he committed to play college football at Alabama. As one of the top prospects in the country, he certainly knew what it was like to be wooed by people and places.

Soon after he made his own decision, though, he became a recruiter himself and tried to talk some of his fellow high school all-stars from around the country into joining him in Tuscaloosa.

One of the receivers he wanted as a target: a four-star kid from Mississippi named A.J. Brown.

That match didn’t come to be. Brown wound up attending Ole Miss. Then, once they arrived in the NFL, they went to two different teams. It seemed as though that imagined and hoped-for connection might never become a reality.

Then on draft day last year, Brown was traded to Hurts’ Eagles team. And now they’re in Super Bowl LVII.

“I always reflect on how cool it is to play with guys you’ve known for a very long time,” Hurts said this past week. “Talking with A.J. specifically, our whole back story and background, with me trying to get him to come to Alabama, it didn’t work out the first time but it worked out this time, and we’ve been enjoying it. We’ve hit the ground running and it was something we wanted to do for a long time.”

Brown is one of the big reasons why the Eagles are facing Kansas City on Sunday and are one win away from a championship. He posted career highs in receptions (88) and yards (1,496) and caught 11 touchdown passes.

He and Hurts connected as if they had been teammates all along.

“Our friendship made everything easier,” Brown said. “We are two guys who have similar mindsets and want to be great. We just put in the work. There was no ego between me and him and we just held each other accountable. That’s why it happened so fast.”

Brown was never sour about coming to Philadelphia, but he did have some hard feelings about being traded from the Titans. They had selected him with a second-round pick in 2019 and he believed he had a future there.

“I definitely matured as a man, matured as a football player,” Brown said of his days in Nashville. “I matured in ways of learning it’s a business and kind of removing my feelings from it.”

The general manager who shipped him to Philadelphia, Jon Robinson, lost his job (perhaps not coincidentally, he was fired in the days after Brown put up eight catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans on Dec. 4). The Titans did not make the playoffs.

Schadenfreude for Brown?

“No comment,” he said through a long laugh.

But not everyone in Tennessee wanted Brown gone. He remained in touch with many members of the organization throughout this season and right up through this week.

“A lot of guys have reached out to me,” Brown said. “Coach [Mike] Vrabel reached out to me. I have no hard feelings for nobody in Tennessee. There’s nothing but love, and they are still showing me love, too. Of course I wish the organization well. I have teammates and friends on that team, you know, so I want them to succeed.”

Brown also credited Titans receiver coach Rob Moore — a Hempstead High School product who went on to play at Syracuse and for the Jets — for helping him learn to be a pro.

“Coach Moore, he was like a mentor to me, still is,” Brown said. “He helped me out tremendously. The success I have on the field really comes from him. Just laying the foundation as soon as I got to the league, teaching me things and really steering me in the right direction.”

Now, though, he is all Eagles.

“It’s been everything,” Brown said of coming to his new team. “It’s been amazing. The fans have embraced me with open arms. The city has, too. It’s just been everything, man. We been rolling as a team and we’re here.”

Brown isn’t the only receiver with whom Hurts had a previous playing relationship. DeVonta Smith played at Alabama with him.

“Birds of a feather flock together, and those are guys I call true friends, not only because of the men they are but the friends they are, the competitors they are, what drives them, what motivates them to be great,” Hurts said. “No one is independent in this thing. We’re all dependent on each other, so we challenge each other and push each other.”

Brown already has proved to be one of the key acquisitions in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. Now there is one more contest.

“I definitely want to leave my mark on this big game,” he said.

Brown and the quarterback who wanted to be his teammate when they were teenagers could make that happen.

BROWN THIS SEASON

88 Catches

1496 Yards

17.0 Avg. per catch

11 TDs

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