M.J. Devonshire is just happy that he’s able to share the same sideline as Phil Jurkovec now.
He was just starting out at Aliquippa as Jurkovec lit up the WPIAL, leading Pine-Richland to WPIAL and PIAA titles, but he definitely remembers the way Jurkovec carried himself.
“My first time competing against Phil, I was kinda star-struck,” Devonshire said Wednesday at the ACC Football Kickoff. “He was tall and big, and I was a young guy. I was a sophomore. I was, like, ‘Wow, this is what a D-I football player looks like,’ and he set an example for me.”
Devonshire watched the way that Jurkovec exuded an easy confidence, his own self-belief evident even to a kid who didn’t really know him, and it was like looking into the future.
“Now getting to play against him, it’s like I get to be on the same team as him,” We get to work. We compete with each other. It’s a great thing.
“Every day I walk on the field, I’m like, I get to go against Phil. We talk about it with my friends. Me and him still talk about memories playing each other in basketball, playing each other on seven-on-seven. It was a great feeling competing against him.”
If Pitt is going to be successful in 2023, it will be because Jurkovec is leading the offense and Devonshire is forming a lockdown duo with Marquis Williams in the defensive secondary.
Devonshire isn’t new to Pitt anymore, not after two seasons back in Pittsburgh, but Jurkovec still is. He may be new, but he’s certainly adapting back to life in the Steel City.
“It’s really an amazing opportunity looking at it,” Jurkovec said at the ACC Football Kickoff Wednesday. “It’s wild. It was shocking how it’s been able to work out. I’m so grateful to everybody, coach Narduzzi, all the coaches for giving me the opportunity to represent Pittsburgh.
“I think that’s the biggest thing. I’m from Pittsburgh. I have so many family and friends from the area. I just want to have a great year for them.”
Jurkovec originally committed to Notre Dame when he came out of Pine-Richland in 2018 and spent two seasons in South Bend as a sparingly used backup before transferring to Boston College. And he certainly had highs and lows during his time as Eagle.
In three seasons at Boston College, Jurkovec completed 404-of-679 passing attempts (59.5%) for 5,183 yards with 35 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. And he added 429 yards and nine touchdowns on 195 attempts.
His debut season at Boston College, with Frank Cignetti Jr. as his offensive coordinator, Jurkovec completed 61% of his pass attempts for 2,558 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions — adding 150 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. But it was only down from there as injuries and poor team play impacted his performance.
“Now coming on with Phil, he has done a great job this spring and firing up the huddle and being there for all the guys and stuff like that,” Matt Goncalves said at the ACC Football Kickoff on Wednesday. “I mean, just the leadership that we have every year and the culture that we bring in with our players, it’s outstanding. It all starts with coach Narduzzi and the standard that we set.”
Jurkovec put together a strong spring, all but being named the starting quarterback midway through spring ball, and he performed well during the spring game itself. But his style of play — or any quarterback, really — isn’t conducive for spring ball.
“I think Phil is a gamer, and he had an incredible spring, but I think what we’ll see is how he runs a game,” Narduzzi said during an ACCPM segment at ACC Football Kickoff. “I want to get on the same sideline with him. Someone mentioned at the press conference today how his best game was against us, and I’m like, really? But he had a heckuva game.”
“But I wanna see him on game day, I wanna see him lead that team in the huddle and I wanna see him on the sideline with how he interacts with our guys. That’s gonna be the best story. How he leads our football team.”
In 2020, Jurkovec put together his finest performance as an Eagle, completing 19-of-35 pass attempts for 358 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-30 win.
He won’t need to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns every game in 2023 for Pitt to succeed. He just needs to be the cool, confident quarterback that Devonshire watched all those years ago.