Original piece published on Examiner.com
As a graduate of San Jose State University, I was fortunate enough to go to many football games as a student. As I went to games, the school continually promoted wide receiver Kevin Jurovich as their star. And he deserved. In only two years as a wide receiver (spent his first two as a safety) Jurovich had 160 catches -- a school record.
Jurovich now is trying to continue his football career in the NFL. Earlier this month, he signed on with the San Francisco 49ers in hope of making the team. As a fellow Spartan, I had the privilege to talk with Jurovich after Wednesday's morning practice about the opportunity to play for the team he watched growing up.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Former San Jose State football star Kevin Jurovich is trying to make the roster for the San Francisco 49ers. After securing school record 160 receptions in 26 games as a wide receiver, the receiver from San Jose's Valley Christian High School is hoping to make the 53-man roster for the 49ers.
After a workout with the 49ers on August 7, the 49ers signed Jurovich to a two-year deal. Growing up as a 49ers fan in the Bay Area, Jurovich is trying to focus on making an impact with his favorite team.
"My main focus is to get better every day," Jurovich said after Wednesday's morning practice. "I'm listening to coach Sullivan [wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan] and just all the experience that he has and some of these other vets, and just trying to learn as much as possible every day.
Jurovich understands that making the 49ers is a long shot for him, but he's continually doing the best he can with the opportunities presented to him. The only other San Jose State Spartan on the roster is 15-year veteran kicker Joe Nedney.
"There's lots of observing on my part because I am not getting all the reps in the world, but with all the reps that I do get I have to make them count," said the rookie Jurovich. "Everything that I see, I have to make sure I put them in my memory bank so when it's my turn to step up to the plate, I'm doing it right."
The 6-0, 190-pound receiver signed a rookie free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles after the draft in April. However, due to a deep thigh bruise during an early practice, he and the Eagles reached an injury settlement. Jurovich was released by the Eagles on July 29.
Jurovich takes the experience he had in Philadelphia and uses it to help him become a better player with the 49ers.
"What I learned from Philadelphia was to be a pro and the time you have to spend at your task," he said. "Other than that, it's a whole different playbook and a whole different group of guys. The main focus is to try to get better every single day and that's what I am trying to do."
The 49ers just released wide receiver Brandon Jones on Wednesday, giving the team only nine receivers under contract. Aside from Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn, no other receivers have their places set on the roster. This gives Jurovich a chance to impress the coaches during training camp.
Jurovich understands that there are a lot of details that go into becoming a wide receiver, especially at the NFL level. He has taken his time to be an observer to his experienced teammates in trying to craft his skills, focusing on the details of being a receiver.
Last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Jurovich suited up in the 49ers' first preseason game of the year. Jurovich had one catch for 20 yards. When asked about the difference between playing college football and the pros, his initial reaction was being starstruck.
"Looking across, the Star-Spangled Banner is going on and I look across and I see Peyton Manning; that's a big difference," he said. "I'm not used to seeing that guy on the field.
"Just knowing that this is the highest level. It doesn't get any better than this. That's the difference. Other than that, it's just football. I got to work; I got to get a lot better."
Like other athletes who have the fortune of playing in their hometown, Jurovich stays rooted with the important people in his life. He keeps in touch with friends from SJSU and Valley Christian; including his former head coach.
"On Saturday night I got a call from Mike Machado, who was my head coach at Valley Christian, and he just let me know 'Hey you know what, we just had a team meeting and all of our guys will be watching you tomorrow,'" Jurovich recalled. "It kind of put things into perspective and it's nice to know that you have a lot of support since I grew up here in the area.
"That's what motivates me, that's a huge help for me when I wake up in the morning; knowing that I have to get better rather than being complacent."
Being so close to home has its benefits, Jurovich said. Even though the team has to stay at a nearby hotel, Jurovich takes every available opportunity to go back home to see his parents. With a day off on this past Monday, that's exactly where Jurovich went.
"I was able to go home and I watch Monday Night Football with my mom and dad; it's nice to be able to do that," he said. "When I was in Philly I couldn't do that. It's a huge benefit to be here. It's one of many reasons as to why I would love to stay here."
Staying with the 49ers will be a tough road for him. The 49ers could keep five or six wide receivers on the roster. Along with the aforementioned receivers Crabtree, Morgan and Ginn, Dominique Zeigler, Jason Hill and Kyle Williams all already have the leg up advantage on securing one of the final spots for receivers. Impressing the coaches as a receiver will be one of two tasks that Jurovich has to worry about. The other one is possibly making an impact as a return specialist.
"I've done a little bit of punt return duties, but there are other guys who are doing it that have done it for a few years," Jurovich said. "The only thing I can do is when I get the opportunity in practice that I make the most of them. Whatever the coach asks me to do, I'll just do it full speed and be right."
The 49ers will host the Minnesota Vikings for their next preseason game this Sunday. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has already said that he expects to give backups quarterback Nate Davis and running back Anthony Dixon more playing time on the field. There could be a chance that Jurovich could also see extra time along with the other backups on Sunday. That will be his next opportunity to make an strong impression to the 49ers.