Prep football | Jurkovic makes smooth transition on offensive line for IMG Academy

Son of former Notre Dame star showing promise

jdill@bradenton.comMay 21, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Spring football can be a launching pad for players looking to get noticed by colleges ahead of the fall season.

It's also a time for coaches to get a glimpse at where they can slot their players.

At IMG Academy, Mirko Jurkovic Jr. already possesses multiple college offers, but he has spent the spring learning a new position.

The South Bend, Ind., native stands a menacing 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, which brought him time at his old high school as an offensive guard.

The rising senior's first taste with the Ascenders after transferring comes with the transition to right tackle.

"I'm learning a whole new position," Jurkovic said. "Learning how to kick step and that kind of stuff. Picking it up pretty well. … The big thing I came here to learn is that when you kick step, make sure your hips are square, kick back vertically and not to the side."

His talent has drawn interest from several Division I suitors, including Missouri, South Carolina and Arkansas.

The skills, though, are in his DNA. Jurkovic's father, Mirko Sr., played on the 1988 Notre Dame team that won the national championship, and his uncle, John Jurkovic, spent 10 seasons in the NFL.

"I just think he's a big-time player, and he has a little nastiness about him, which I like," IMG head coach Chris Weinke said. "That's hard to teach and I think it's just a part of who he is. Grew up in a football family. Understands what it takes, the sacrifices you have to make. I mean, he's been one of the bright spots of spring ball for us. I couldn't be more pleased with the progress he's made up to this point."

Jurkovic has already faced adversity when his father lost his battle with cancer in January 2013.

"He was probably my best friend growing up," Jurkovic said. "I was always attached to him. He was a great supporter and it was tough losing him. But I knew if I dwelled on it, it wouldn't take me or the family anywhere. So we had to always remember him, remember the great times, but we had to get over it and move on."

Jurkovic has always worn No. 64, but said he might switch to No. 74 -- the number his dad wore -- to honor him. But he's not sure yet if he'll make the change.

For now, he's focusing his attention on the upcoming season - his last in high school football.

The Ascenders capped their inaugural season with an 8-2 record and lost 16 starters off that team including heralded running back Bo Scarborough.

But they've gained several new standout players, including Jurkovic.

"They reached out to me and just decided to check it out," said Jurkovic, who has 14 college offers. "Come down here and decided to enroll. ... These facilities compare to a lot of Division I facilities. It's crazy."

Jurkovic's transition has been smooth, aided by fellow offensive lineman and highly-touted prospect Tyree St. Louis.

"When he first came here, I showed him everything," said St. Louis, who is a returning offensive lineman. "I gave him my playbook and told him to read it every single night."

Jurkovic caught on quick, because teaming with St. Louis on the line has produced a stable foundation as protection for transfer quarterback Deondre Francois heading into next fall.

"Mirko is a very, very good player," St. Louis said. "It's very good to have someone like him on the team. That way we know, at least we know for a fact that the tackle position is done. We don't have to worry about defensive ends. We have really good interior guys."

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