It is rare that college coaches come out here to see high school players — Richmond’s Dick Tarrant, who saw Kenny Wood play basketball in East Hampton High’s gym, and the University of South Florida’s head coach, Eddie Cardieri, a former teammate of Ed Bahns’s, who saw Ross Gload hit three home runs in 1994’s county small schools championship baseball game at St. Joseph’s College, being two exceptions that come immediately to mind.
Knowing that, Andrew (Drew) Jurkiewicz, a linebacker and running back on East Hampton’s varsity football team this past fall, set about promoting himself — an effort that, wonderful to tell, wound up winning him a $40,000 scholarship to Wagner College on Staten Island, a Division 1-AA school that competes in the Northeastern Conference with such schools as St. Francis of Loretto, Pa., Duquesne, Robert Morris, Bryant, Sacred Heart, and Central Connecticut. Boston College was a nonleague opponent this past fall.
During a conversation at The Star this past week, Drew acknowledged that he’d done it “all on [his] own.”
“I always wanted to play in college,” he said. “I went on to recruiting websites and made a profile, with stats, the positions I played, and a couple of highlight clips, so coaches could evaluate me. Twelve to 15 schools contacted me. . . .”
His varsity career here began with a concussion that kept him out for two months. The next season, in the fall of 2014 — a year in which East Hampton did not field a varsity football team — he played at Cheshire Academy in Cheshire, Conn., earning the team’s most valuable player award, after which he returned to East Hampton.
“It was too far from home,” he said of Cheshire, “and also I wanted to come back and help with the program here.”
This past season, he said, he “played all over, mostly at inside linebacker and running back, the same positions I played at Cheshire.”
In East Hampton’s last — and best — game, versus Bayport-Blue Point, a 36-21 win, he was credited with having made 10 tackles.
In addition to website profiles, he also had done “very well,” he said, in a football combine in northern New Jersey.
He felt it was up to him to advocate for himself inasmuch as East Hampton’s 2016 team had not done well, Jurkiewicz said. The college coaches, he said, had consequently reached out to him.
Apparently, among other things, they were impressed by how much muscle he had added to his 5-foot-10-inch frame. Although he weighed 140 pounds this past fall, he tips the scales at 195 now — the result of daily workouts with a friend of his, Kevin Weiss, who, had he not been sidelined by an injury last fall, would have been the team’s top lineman.
“We’re both self-motivated, we’re like brothers. We get up at 4:45 in the morning and go to the East Hampton Gym and work out until 6:45. After school, we work out from 3 to 5. On Saturdays and Sundays we work out with our coach, Lorenzo [Rodriguez], from 1 to 4 on the turf field. . . . I was able to do this because of all the hard work.”
All the schools that contacted him in response to his profile were serious, he said. He wound up visiting seven or eight of them, along with Weiss, including Stony Brook University, Cheyney University, Southern Connecticut, SUNY Maritime, Endicott, Delaware Valley, and Merrimack.
At first, when he recently received the acceptance letter from Wagner, Jurkiewicz thought it was offering him a $10,000 scholarship. Reading on, he saw that it was actually $40,000 — $10,000 a year, provided, as in the case of many academic scholarships, that he continue to perform well. And there was a chance, he said, that more scholarship money would be added were he to exceed expectations.
While it doesn’t cover the whole nut, college being so expensive these days, the scholarship was welcome news to his parents, Andrew and Kerrie.
“They’re looking for me to be an outside linebacker,” Drew said in answer to a question, adding, in reply to another, that 210 would ultimately be a good playing weight for him.
What the Seahawk coaches really liked, he said, was his reply when they asked him what position he’d like to play. “I don’t care,” he said, “as long as I can play.”
Asked if she worried about her son when it came to injuries — concussions in particular — Kerrie Jurkiewicz said, “I know how well he takes care of himself, so I’m confident.”
“You can get a concussion in most any sport,” said his father, adding that football tackling techniques now resembled those of rugby, with lower hits rather than high head-on ones.
“Without that change I don’t think I would have let him play,” his wife said.
As for what his academic interests were, Drew said, “Business and marketing . . . Wagner’s very good for that.” Internships in that field were available, he said, from freshman year on.