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July 18, 2013

Hurd sees a big season ahead for A&M

HOOVER, ALA. -- While several hundred reporters gathered around Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel at SEC Media Days, nattily attired senior CB Toney Hurd Jr. sat on the other side of the room taking questions from a much smaller group of reporters.

Unfortunately, a lot of them were about the guy on the other side of the room. As a result, Hurd grinned when asked a simple question: "What got you started doing the shark?"

"The shark started with me having fun," he said with a chuckle. "Von used to cook it up; back in the day, Jorvorskie Lane used to do the J-Train Lane, so I just decided I'd have some fun. Kenny Gant with the Dallas Cowboys, so I just thought I'd bring it back."

Not all the questions, however, were fun and games. As the Manziel-related questions piled up, Hurd defended his quarterback.

"Johnny's a great guy. He's a hard-working and motivated guy," he said. "As teammates, we stand by him, and we know coach Sumlin will handle the discipline issues off the field."

In 2012, the Aggies arrived at SEC Media Days as a team considered a potential doormat in the western division. Even though Hurd was not in attendance last year, the attitude of the media in Birmingham was transmitted back to the team in College Station.

"It definitely motivated us," he said. "We work hard just like everyone else in the country. For everyone to sleep on us definitely motivated us."

Hurd said A&M's turning point in 2012 came in the Ole Miss game, when he capped a furious fourth quarter comeback with an interception with a little more than a minute to go. But merely competing in the SEC is no longer considered acceptable to the Aggie defensive back.

"We got the monkey off our back (in 2012) that we couldn't win in the SEC, and this year, we're just dedicated to working to be great," he said.

What would qualify as "great"? Simply put, a national title.

"As hard as we work, I feel we would have been a great contender for the national championship (last year)," he said. "But that's the past; we're working hard right now and we're very, very dedicated to getting to the national championship this year."

Hurd said he was aware of preseason prognosticators pointing to the defense as the reason A&M may fall short of their goal -- comments that he said are fuel for the team's fire.

"The media has to talk about something, but of course, as a defense we embrace it. We're working hard, we're very dedicated to our task," he said. "On defense, we'll be having fun. We're going to be very fast, going sideline to sideline. Coach Snyder will have us moving very fast and very physical. Physically, we'll be fine; mentally, we'll be fine."

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