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Born without lower arm, Griz DE Alex Hurlburt uses 'natural grit' to overcome obstacles

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 10, 2022

MISSOULA — As the snow stopped and the Montana Grizzlies' blowout of Cal Poly rolled on, the final quarter of Saturday's contest didn't mean much in the grand scheme of the game's outcome.

But in lopsided games, that means players who don't normally see the field get their chance, and for Montana, that included defensive end Alex Hurlburt making his first career appearance in a fall game, as the matchup wound to a close.

"I've been telling people this last week that I think that snow game was definitely in my top three favorite gameday atmospheres that I've had being here," Hurlburt said. "It was just a cool opportunity to go out there and be with some guys that I've played with for the last four years, and just, not only get to be a part of such a cool win, but such a cool atmosphere."

Hurlburt has been a unique and special character in the Griz program over the last four years.

The Salem, Oregon native was born without his arm below his left elbow, but that hasn't stopped him from crafting out a Division I college football career at Montana.

"I've had it my whole life, so growing up I've had to figure out how to do things differently," Hurlburt said. "Adversity, and it's been good. I mean, it's been challenging to find different ways to compete and I think that's something that I can take as something that's got me here is being able to compete and be able to take that adversity and figure out how to do things differently."

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Alex Hurlburt in high school.

Hurlburt's role at Montana has been more of a scout team asset, and his coaches rave about both his attitude and work ethic in the face of adversity.

His personality is to work hard and keeps things light, a role he's happy to play.

"I think taking any opportunity to try something new is perfect, so a lot of those things that I tried never worked, and I found the things that stuck and worked and took those as a craft," Hurlburt said. "Made those as best as possible and so took that and pushed myself father and farther to get better at those things and ultimately it landed me here."

Hurlburt grew up thinking baseball would be his sport, but he found success with football in high school, leading him to become a force on the gridiron, before eventually finding his way to Montana.

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Alex Hurlburt as a young football player.

"Never been the biggest or strongest guy, so I think finding ways like effort and just natural grit are things that have excelled me to this level and without those two things I don't think I'd be playing D1 football," Hurlburt said.

Hurlburt's time with the Griz will come to an end after this season, and he'll be honored on senior day this Saturday ahead of UM's game against Eastern Washington.

While a redshirt sophomore in terms of on-field eligibility, Hurlburt will graduate in the spring with degrees in information systems and finance, with a job lined up after school back in Oregon. So life after football is beginning to take off for Hurlburt, who is a married man off the field, and he'll begin the next chapter of his life after the season concludes.

But it's been a special career for a player who has overcome the odds every step of the way.

"Two things really stand out, and I think the first is the teammates," Hurlburt said. "I mean, I've been with so many guys the last four years, but there are so many that are going to stick out to me for the rest of my life and some of those friendships will last forever, and the other one that sticks out is community. I mean, we have the greatest fans, especially in Montana, we have the greatest fans, so I think that fanbase is something that's going to stick with me for a long time and I'm always going to be a big Griz fan. Those are two things have just always stuck out.

"Everyone always wishes they could do a little bit more, and I think everyone will look back and think I could've done this a little differently, this a little differently, and I have those moments. But, I mean, I'm happy with what I've overcame, and what I've got to do."