Familiarity is Phil Jurkovec’s Friend As He Returns Home to Pittsburgh
Phil Jurkovec knows what to expect this time around. A first week of camp in which footwork is the sole emphasis. Seriously. You don’t get that many other places.
He’s very familiar with his new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. already. The pair spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons together at Boston College. It went well until it didn’t, with injuries hampering the follow-up to a strong debut season together and Cignetti leaving for Pitt ahead of the 2022 season.
It took a year to find each other again, but on the same day that Jurkovec entered the transfer portal in December, he committed to Pitt — and returned to Cignetti.
“I owe a lot of my success at Boston College to coach Cignetti,” Jurkovec said Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “He really knows how to coach quarterbacks, so I’m so happy to be back in that system and the way that they train the quarterback. It’s different.”
Instead of watching Joe Burrow film, Cignetti throws on old Joe Montana tapes from the 1980s. If you’re a quarterback at Pitt, you’re familiar with the history of former San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense.
It’s an offense used in the NFL to this day, and as Cignetti has had success in the NFL himself, he holds his quarterbacks to a higher standard.
“(Cignetti) has high expectations, and he keeps them for the whole room,” Jurkovec said. “He’s big on competition and speaking the same language. It’s a little bit different now because I have a couple of years in this offense under my belt.”
It’s not just Cignetti’s offense that Jurkovec is familiar with either. He’s from Pittsburgh, of course. Or the Pittsburgh suburbs, at least, as he attended Pine-Richland in Gibsonia. He learned the game, grew up and thrived in Pittsburgh.
He starred as Mr. Football Pennsylvania at P-R, racking up gaudy numbers and winning a PIAA championship as a senior, and he said it was a tough decision to leave Pittsburgh. But he still did, committing to Notre Dame at the time.
He was deadset on Boston College after he left Notre Dame, and even if Pitt was locked in with Kenny Pickett, it took three tries for Jurkovec to finally find his way back home.
“It’s meant a lot to me because coach Narduzzi’s given me this opportunity, but everybody in my family, everybody I grew up with around here who helped me out since back in high school, is very excited,” Jurkovec said. “I’m very fortunate and thankful to everybody that they still support me at Pitt.”
And while Jurkovec feels like that level of local support is conducive to success, it isn’t exclusive to his friends and family from back home. It extends to his new Pitt family, too. The success over the last two seasons isn’t accidental. It isn’t random.
“There are a lot of hard-working people and winners on this team,” Jurkovec said. “They won a couple of years ago, and this past year they had success, nine wins, but that’s not where they wanna be.
“I really like that attitude that they’re not happy with nine wins, but they still had a lot of success this past year.”
Pitt isn’t the team it was in 2021, there’s a lot of turnover even from even last season’s squad, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The same is true at quarterback. Pickett, who is now on the other side of the wall of the South Side facility, gave way to Kedon Slovis. Slovis, who is now at BYU, is giving way to… another competition.
Jurkovec is the headliner, of course, but he’s joined in the room by Penn State transfer Christian Veilleux, rising third-year quarterback Nate Yarnell and true freshman Ty Dieffenbach. He may be the most experienced signal-caller in the room, but he isn’t taking anything for granted.
He’s coming in to compete. If there’s anything he’s learned during his winding college journey, it’s to be about it. Don’t just talk about it. Do it. Show up, put in the work and be in the moment.
The work has actually already begun. In the short time working with new teammates like Rodney Hammond Jr., Gavin Bartholomew, Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means, Jurkovec has seen the competitive fire in his teammates has been infectious.
“Bub and Tae, they always want to throw, they never get tired, it’s every day,” Jurkovec said. “They’re fired up to do that, so that’s great for me because I’ll throw routes to them all day.”
Jurkovec is looking forward to watching — and working with — Pickett himself, too. Pickett’s final season at Pitt is what Jurkovec is looking to replicate most of all, a breakout campaign and ACC championship all in one. Of course, he wouldn’t mind watching the Steelers as a whole either.
Of course, Pittsburgh offers Jurkovec a lot. A chance to come home, to walk the hall of his hometown university as the (potential) starting quarterback, but it goes beyond that. He’s officially one of the hard-working, blue-collar Pittsburghers he grew up admiring.
“I love Pittsburgh,” Jurkovec said. “I love this city. It has everything you would like. It has everything to offer to recruits. I think all the WPIAL kids should stay home, all come to Pitt, that’s something that hasn’t happened in for a while, but I think having guys back, we would love for that to happen.”
Jurkovec, admittedly, is a WPIAL kid who decided to leave home. Just as fellow WPIAL transfers Donovan McMillion (Florida) and Derrick Davis (LSU) did. But all three returned home with a mission: to win, to keep winning.
And much like Jurkovec knows what to expect when it comes to working with Cignetti and living in Pittsburgh, he expects to win this time around. As he’s walked around the halls of the South Side facility and seen the names of the local quarterbacks who have had success at Pitt, it only makes him want to work harder.
Pitt has had its fair share of ups and downs, but Jurkovec looks toward the successes. He looks at what Pickett did and wants to emulate it. And after watching the best two-season stretch in the last 40 years, he came to a realization.
“You can do it at home,” Jurkovec said. “You can come here and win. Obviously, the WPIAL doesn’t have the talent that it used to have in the past, there’s still a lot of talent but it’s not what it used to be, but I think it would be really cool if the guys in high school and younger came together and wanted to stay home and make the culture here really strong.”
However, if there’s one thing that Jurkovec still pines for, it’s Acrisure Stadium. Or rather, its predecessor.
“I wish it was Heinz still,” Jurkovec said.
2x quitter on his former teammates
on Campus trolling again. Such a loser. Go back to peddling Joe PA lies on your own forum.
and you respond, thanks for the click
Isn’t time for your root beer float while playing with your Joe Pa bobblehead doll
Go hang out with your pedo buddies at State Penn loser. All trolls are pathetic.
yet you respond, thanks for the click and money in my pocket
I understand. Ocsp was told he would never be closer to heaven than when he was in Happy Valley. Now he lives in Pittsburgh (no jobs in HV) and where no one cares about his beloved kitty cats. Hail to Pitt.
Now if this were a PSU transfer portal pickup where PSU was the player’s 3rd school, then it becomes 2x this player improved his situation instead of quitting on his teammates.
The above stated, you got a rise out of some folks.
Possibly Deez, I’d have to stop by CJF’s house and ask him. PSU has been very slow in adopting the portal benefits, to my chagrin. They are now finally using it the last few years to plug in certain spots (not to build a team as recruiting is still the lifeblood for any programs long term success). Ebiketie, Tinsley and Chop Robinson to name a few.
It really is so easy to get a rise out of people. It’s football talk on the internet and I can almost see some fuming as they feverishly type “pedo” or “Milk Dud”…so funny
I hope he has success here at Pitt, but NOW this guys is encouraging players to stay local and chose the Panthers? The same guy that is on his THIRD school? Seems to me a huge lack of credibility.
I hope we can start developing another KP, instead of plugging in retreads.
He may of stayed in BC if Cignetti had stayed. The new system there did not fit his skill set nor would prepare him for the next level so let’s be realistic here. The other two qbs are being developed which gives that room a lot of depth. Anymore depth you would have qbs transfering out.
But let’s not forget, he passed over Pitt TWICE already.
I’ll give him a pass on his first transfer to BC because Phil knew that he would never step under center as long as Kenny was playing in Acrisure Stadium…as a Panther.
So f–ing what?! He’s here now, you’d rather have an inexperienced QB start and win 5-6 hames and be irrelevant? Try having a constructive criticism.
I agree. What a perfect scenario for Pitt this year. A skilled QB that understands and had success under Cignetti and his system. A high profile transfer from PSU, a young QB on roster with game experience and a year in the system. A first year recruit with potential. With Jurkovec under center Pitt does not need to rush these players. The best case is one of these learn the system and Pitt will not need to reach for another QB in the portal like we did with Slovis.
you better rush your high profile PSU transfer (one career start in 3 years) as Phil is certainly going to sit out multiple games due to injury, he always does.
The durability of Jurkovec is definitely a concern. The hope is he remains healthy and productive for the year. If so it would be great to see him reach the potential that many saw for him coming out of Pine Richland. This would allow for the other three QB’s that I referenced to learn. Considering his history with QB’s both pro and college it would benefit these young men. My point actual point is that finally has a succession plan at QB. QB’s that fit the Cignetti-Narduzzi style are in place. From an experienced in Cignetti style in Jurkovec with… Read more »
Look, couple of things here. First, KP started for 4 years,so was he going to look to pick and leave? No, he wasn’t,and he really blossomed in Cignetti’s offense. Fact is.most QB recruits do not have the same experience that KP had here; if you’re good enough and go to an established program, you’re waiting your turn which you earn through competition. That’s how we ended up with Slovis last year; he wasn’t playing at USC because he couldn’t beat out the competition to start, so he left and came here. He left Pitt because he’s not a fit for… Read more »
That was an excellent read – Well done!
You lost me at “let me explain something to you”.
Being “recruited” by Salisbury University and Berry College doesn’t count, Brah.
I didn’t read the rest of your drivel.
You have no credibility.
exactly, he bloviates drivel with zero cred. For real football knowledge readers need to check you and I out Burton!
Kings college must have gotten a good one with Reese! Kids went to ND in the past because they are ND, money might have played into it but nothing like it is today. Catholic kids will always choose ND as it’s the dream school of fathers and grandfathers. Portal is going to change in the next 2-3 years. Nobody wants kids jumping every year so pitt’s formula of grabbing benchwarmers at big schools will be over. What’s their next move. People here seem to be offended that NIL is going on. It’s the state of college football these days. Until… Read more »
Timing is everything. Slovis signed and Cignetti was hired. If circumstances were switched, I believe Jurkovec would have followed Cignetti and Slovis would have been elsewhere.