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Rocking The Cradle

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Western Pennsylvania holds the distinction of producing many elite quarterbacks over the years. Commonly dubbed the “Cradle of Quarterbacks,” the region has served as a Petri dish for talents.

Pro Football Hall of Famers like Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, Johnny Unitas and George Blanda lead the parade, but have been joined recently by names like Terrelle Pryor, Bruce Gradkowski and Tyler Palko. That’s just to name a few.

Pine-Richland sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec is primed to add his name to the extensive list. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound signal caller became just the third player in WPIAL history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a season, throwing for 2,560 yards, 20 touchdowns and only four interceptions, and running for 1,250 yards and 11 scores.

Jurkovec’s tremendous debut helped Pine-Richland to an 11-2 record and a berth in the WPIAL semifinals.

The sophomore sensation has garnered plenty of attention, earning scholarship offers from Pitt and Penn State, as well as Notre Dame, Michigan State, Wisconsin and UCLA.

There are surely more to come.

“There are not many guys his age that are as talented as him,” said Joe Butler of Metro Index Scouting.

In addition to his size and physical skills, the 16-year-old has intangibles not often seen in prospects his age.

“I think that’s the makings of a great quarterback,” said Pine-Richland head coach Eric Kasperowicz. “I think that’s what sets a lot of quarterbacks apart, and Phil without a doubt has all of the great intangibles you need to be a quarterback. “

Jurkovec highlighted two particular aspects which he feels he excels at. 

“I’d like to think that my best qualities would be my leadership and poise,” he said.

Kasperowicz echoed this self-evaluation, praising his quarterback’s poise and maturity multiple times, likening his approach to that of fifth-year senior. Butler only served to reinforce the coach’s sentiments.

“He’s mature beyond his years,” Butler said.

Jurkovec’s maturity has shined even brighter throughout the recruiting process, which Kasperowicz credits to the young QB’s upbringing with parents Jim and Sara.

“He’s very much grounded and understands that he’s still young and he’ll have to work for everything that he gets,” Kasperowicz said.

“It’s exciting to get all these accolades and to get offers, but I just try to block it out for the most part,” Jurkovec said. “I’m grateful… but it’s also overblown.” 

While his array of intangibles undoubtedly plays a role in the heavy interest he’s receiving, the main attraction for schools will always be the on-field product. With his blend of size, athleticism and passing ability, Jurkovec is top of the market, and Butler believes that Jurkovec’s coaching staff will only help him develop further.

“He has developed into a good quarterback rapidly, so now it’s maintenance,” Butler said. “To be able to maintain and keep improving, and he has the coaches at Pine Richland to be able to do that.”

Kasperowicz starred for North Hills as a state championship quarterback before playing linebacker at Pitt. He and his Pine-Richland staff have already sent one Rams QB to Division 1. Pine-Richland’s previous starter, Ben DiNucci, ranked as the 10th best prospect in the state by ESPN and eventually earned a scholarship to Pitt.

Two aspects of Jurkovec’s game that he and his coaches will work on are his throwing motion, which needs to be tightened up a bit, and his ability to read defenses. Butler does not see them as glaring flaws.
Pine-Richland Phil Jurkovec
“He’s pretty well-rounded for a 16-year-old sophomore,” he said.

The biggest obstacle for Jurkovec might very well come in the weight room, not the football field. 

At a lean 190 pounds, Jurkovec is spread just a little too thin. Considering his mobile nature, building mass will be incredibly important. However, at 6-foot-5 and just 16 years of age, he’s still a developing young adult with a frame that has plenty of room to grow into.

In the end, Jurkovec has all of the tools that make college coaches salivate, and he still has two full years left to ascend to even greater heights. The process will be long, but expectations are high for Jurkovec to become the Cradle of Quarterbacks’ biggest recruit since Pryor in 2008.

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