CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Dan Marino. Jim Kelly. Joe Montana. Johnny Unitas. Joe Namath.
Those are just a few quarterbacks from western Pennsylvania that have gone on to star in big-time college football and play in the NFL. Those five in particular happen to be members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And those are the guys that Phil Jurkovec looks up to.
“It’s the cradle of quarterbacks, Western PA. Growing up there, you just kind of hear about them. They’re legends,” Jurkovec said. “Being a quarterback, you kind of look to that. You really want to do your best and hopefully meet those guys and play along with that line of quarterbacks.”
A Pittsburgh native who was an All-American at Pine-Richland High School, Jurkovec is entering his second season as the starting quarterback at Boston College. In his first season, he set records and met milestones that hadn’t been touched since Matt Ryan was under-center for the Eagles a decade-and-a-half ago.
Heading into Year Two in 2021, his redshirt junior campaign, both Jurkovec and those around him expect him to be even better.
During Boston College’s spring practices, second-year head coach Jeff Hafley noticed a change in Jurkovec. Not necessarily how he was throwing the ball or how well he hit his targets, but in his approach. It was business-like.
“I saw confidence and I saw leadership coming in and out of the huddle as each practice went on,” Hafley said. “The way this guy breaks the huddle and walks through the line and approaches it, you can see the confidence building, the leadership coming out of him, which is what excites me.”
Jurkovec came to Boston College last season as a transfer from Notre Dame. Pegged as a four-star recruit in the 2018 class by 247sports – but also ranked as the top dual-threat quarterback in the country – Jurkovec had offers from nearly every major program in college football. Ultimately, Jurkovec chose the Irish over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee and his hometown Pitt Panthers.
In his first two seasons in South Bend, Jurkovec played sparingly, featuring in eight games. He threw touchdowns in games against Bowling Green and Michigan. But heading into his junior season though, it was clear that Jurkovec was not going to overtake Ian Book for the starting quarterback job in Brian Kelly’s offense.
So, Jurkovec entered the transfer portal and arrived in Boston at a time when the Eagles were undergoing a regime change from former head coach Steve Addazio to Hafley.
To run his offense, Hafley tapped into western Pennsylvania and hired Frank Cignetti Jr., who was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in Indiana. Cignetti started his coaching career as a grad assistant at Pitt in 1989 and was the Panthers’ offensive coordinator from 2009 to 2010. Before being hired at Boston College, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers.
“Coach Cignetti has been great. What he brings to us is NFL scheme, really an NFL style, which I think makes us a little bit different than every other team in the ACC,” Jurkovec said. “With that comes a learning process, so that’s taken some time for us. But now that we’re in year two, he’s really guiding us, and we’re feeling a lot more comfortable with it.”
Jurkovec won the starting quarterback job at Boston College last fall and flourished in Cignetti’s system. His 2,558 passing yards over his first 10 starts were the most by any Eagles quarterback in the program’s history. Additionally, he was the first BC quarterback to total four 300-yard passing performances in his first five starts. One of Jurkovec’s best games came against his hometown Panthers, as he completed 19-of-35 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns – and a rushing score – in an Oct. 10 win over Pitt.
“He’s so talented,” Hafley said. “He can throw the ball all over the field. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s hard to sack. He sees it, he can process.”
In all, Jurkovec had 17 passing touchdowns to five interceptions in his first season at BC, with a completion percentage of 61%, a rating of 138.7, and 150 yards and three scores on the ground. Jurkovec finished the year ranked sixth in the ACC in total offense.
“He’s talented. He’s a great guy,” said Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson. “It’s really awesome blocking for someone you know, even if everything is not perfect, he can scramble out the pocket, make something work, throw a bomb down the field.”
In Jurkovec and Halfey’s first year at BC the Eagles went 6-5 overall and 5-5 in ACC play. They’re hoping to win more games this year, and if they do, it’ll likely be because Jurkovec stepped up and led them to those victories. That would be welcomed news for not only Boston College and its fans, but also Jurkovec’s draft stock.
“We have so many weapons,” Jurkovec said. “I’m just excited to see what they can do now that it’s year two under this new scheme.”