When it comes to crunching numbers, big-time college recruiters see Luke Juriga as a tad short.
When Marmion coach Dan Thorpe looks on the field each week, all he sees is Juriga crunching numbers. They happen to be on the jerseys of opposing linemen.
“He’s tearing it up,” Thorpe says of his standout senior right guard/defensive tackle.
“He’s averaging four or five pancake blocks a game.”
One, in particular, stands out.
“He drove a St. Francis player 15 yards before he cleanly pancaked him and they called Luke for unnecessary roughness,” Thorpe said incredulously.
The recollection brought a smile to the face of the 270-pound Juriga.
“It was pretty good,” Juriga said. “I drove the guy back and he ran into the ref. I kept driving him and pancaked him and (the ref) threw a flag on me. He said our guy got tackled before I threw him to the ground.”
The pancaked player’s response drew a personal foul, fortunately making both infractions offsetting.
“He can play either the 1 technique or 3 technique and demands a double team,” Thorpe said, referring to Juriga lining up opposite a guard’s inside shoulder (1) or outside shoulder (3) and creating havoc.
Juriga is the son of Marmion offensive line coach Jim Juriga, a Wheaton North product who played at Illinois and four years for the NFL Denver Broncos, starting Super Bowl XXIV.
Like father and older brother Jake, who last season completed his playing career as a linebacker/backup long snapper for the Naval Academy, Luke Juriga wants to play at the next level.
“I think I’m kind of expected to play D-I,” the youngster said, adding his primary interest is keeping up with older brother.
“I was scared to ask (Jim) questions about (playing in the NFL) when I was little. Up until sixth grade I didn’t even know all the positions he played. I knew he was on the offensive line but didn’t know he played like every position.”
The youngest Juriga — his mother Denise played volleyball at Illinois and sister Kim is a junior volleyball player at NCAA Division II Florida Tech — has scholarship offers from the Air Force Academy and Western Michigan. Higher profile programs have been in touch but have not offered Luke, who stands 6-3 1/2 or 6-3 3/4, depending on who is measuring.
“It just shows how specific it is at the BCS schools,” said a frustrated Thorpe, who thinks recruiters should look at the total package.
“He’s also a good long snapper and is our first guy down the field on punts,” thanks to hustle and 4.96 speed in the 40.
Jim Juriga takes his son’s recruiting in stride.
“We’ve talked to a lot of schools and they’ve got their reasoning behind it and that’s their job,” said Jim, who has coached Luke since he was in sixth grade playing in the Tri-Cities Youth Tackle program.
“That’s their opinion. Any good player like Luke should use that as motivation. You have to prove yourself, which is fine. It comes down to a numbers thing where they want someone who is 6-6 with a super duper arm span. There’s a lot of players who may have better numbers in terms of height and weight right now.”
Jim, who is 6-6, also knows his son could grow more.
“He’s young for his class and just turned 17 this summer,” he said. “There’s potential. And he’s starting to fill out more. It’s up to him. … They’ve gotta find their own way in life.”