The play worked every time that San Jose’s Valley Christian High School football team tried it during their 2003 season; a perfect seven for seven. Seven times the Warriors’ first play from scrimmage was a deep post pattern thrown by back-up quarterback Dante Perez to starting quarterback Kevin Jurovich, who would line up as a wide receiver, and seven times they connected for big plays. “That was pretty much my receiving career (in high school)” says Jurovich today. “It worked every single time.”
Those seven pass receptions, successful as they were, weren’t enough to warrant the attention of college scouts looking for wide receiver prospects. Nor was Jurovich’s play at quarterback garnering much notice. What did get the attention of the coaching staff at San Jose State was Jurovich’s skills as a defensive back. That turned out to be the position he was asked to play after signing with the Spartans in the spring of 2004. The only thoughts anyone had of Jurovich playing wide receiver came from Kevin himself. There was little to suggest in 2004 that the Spartans had in their midst a future All-WAC wide receiver; one that would go on to break the San Jose State single season reception record.
Jurovich redshirted his freshman year at San Jose State in 2004, but bonded with defensive backs coach Keith Burns. By 2005, most of the coaching staff that had recruited him had departed when then head coach Fitz Hill was replaced by current head coach Dick Tomey. Burns was retained as part of Tomey’s staff, but was moved to coach the tight ends. The new defensive backs coach was Dave Fipp, a former Tomey player at Arizona. “He really invested a lot of time in me as a player” says Jurovich. As a redshirt freshman in 2005, Jurovich played in all 12 games as a defensive back, and was the starting safety for one game. The following season, Jurovich found himself, as a back-up defensive back, suffered a hand injury, and only played in five games. Despite the success of the Spartans in 2006, winning nine games and the New Mexico Bowl, Jurovich was no longer happy just playing defense. “I think when I came in as freshman” says Jurovich, “(I was) willing to do anything. So, that’s what I did. I played defense.” It wasn’t that Jurovich didn’t like playing on defense; he just missed playing on offense too. “I’d always played safety” said Jurovich. “But, when we had the ball, I always had the ball at quarterback. That was football to me. I could do safety, but the other half of the time I was playing quarterback. For three years, not to touch the ball, it really wasn’t what I was used to.” For a time Jurovich left the team in 2006, not sure if football was even in his future. After some soul searching, he realized that he wanted to continue playing football, but he had one request to ask Coach Tomey.
With the departure of the Spartans top two wide receivers, (James Jones and John Broussard), to the NFL after the 2006 season, Jurovich saw his opportunity to play on offense. He requested, and was granted the chance to tryout for one of the open wide receiver spots. “I knew that if I did get a chance I could make some things happen” said Jurovich.“ I think (the coaches) thought, ‘yeah, we’ll give this kid a try, but (we) don’t think he’s going to do much.’ I respected that. I didn’t expect them to believe in me, because they’d never seen me (play receiver).” It didn’t take Jurovich long to impress the coaches as a wide receiver. “He adjusted to the new position faster than anyone I’d ever seen” said Coach Tomey. By the time the spring 2007 drills had come to an end, Jurovich had won one of the starting wide receiver spots.
During his first season in his new role, Jurovich wasted no time in establishing himself as a force. In the second game of the 2007 season, Jurovich caught 10 passes against Kansas State. Catching 10 passes in a single game was something no San Jose State receiver had accomplished in the previous three seasons. Jurovich would go on to catch a school record 85 passes for 1,183 yards, becoming only the third Spartan in school history to reach the 1,000 yard milestone in a single season. He also earned 2nd Team All-WAC honors.
In 2008, Jurovich began what he thought would be his final collegiate season right were he left off. He caught 14 balls in the first two games of the season, including the game winner in the final minute of the season opener against UC-Davis. But, he found himself unusually exhausted during the second game in Lincoln, Nebraska. A trip to the doctor would result in a diagnosis of mononucleosis, which, besides fatigue, causes the spleen to enlarge. Just like that, his season was over. Being out for the year was a tough adjustment for him. “It was difficult, especially in the very beginning” said Jurovich. “It’s unlike any other injury, because with an injury, you’re (around) to get treatment and get better. It’s actually worse because (the coaches) actually told me to not come around, because they didn’t want me to get anyone else sick.“
Jurovich refused to let his illness become a negative. ”As an athlete I’ve learned that there are hurdles in your career and in your life” said Jurovich. “You’ve got to respond, and you’ve got two ways you can respond. You can sulk about it and feel sorry for yourself; or you can use it as a positive.” Confident that his medical condition and strong academic standing would allow him to receive a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, Jurovich set out to make himself a better player. “I was able to get a lot of mental rep’s out of that season, and learn a lot of different things” said Jurovich. “Learn the position more, get with my coaches more to watch film of the previous season, and (learn) about things I can do better.” Another positive in having this season be his final one as a Spartan was the opportunity it provided to work with new offensive coach Terry Malley. “He’s taught me how to be a true professional, and learn the position and the sport” said Jurovich.
Thus far in 2009, Jurovich appears to be back on track. He is one of only four players nationally with at least three consecutive games of 100 or more yards receiving. He currently is averaging 7 catches and 97 yards a game, and is the primary punt returner for the Spartans. “Looking back on it, it’s really been a blessing for me. I learned from it. I’m much happier now. It made me a better person, a better player. It was a positive.”
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Mike Morgan is a Senior Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Mike with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
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