Catching Up With Mirko Jurkovic

Fans of Notre Dame football are familiar with former offensive lineman standout Mirko Jurkovic on and off the field. On the field, Jurkovic was a member of the 1988 national championship team and a 1991 All-American.

More recently, he can be heard off the field on a local radio station for the Irish football post-game show. Notre Dame got into contact with him and he agreed on the position.

"It's just the right amount of satisfaction," Jurkovic said over the phone on Wednesday night about his radio job. "Not that I wasn't close to Notre Dame football before but at the same time not too close. It doesn't consume me. You're really just watching the game with me, Reggie Brooks and Jack Nolan in the press box. It's a blast and a honor to do it."

Jurkovic is now a medical salesman for a firm out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. He lives, though, in Granger. With the gig on the post game show and the proximity to the Notre Dame campus, Jurkovic got to see first hand the impact that head coach Charlie Weis had with the program. He can see the attitude change on the field as he watches the contests from the press box.

"I think what Charlie has done, more than wins and losses, is to get the kids to believe in themselves with their confidence and ability," Jurkovic said. "They really grew as the year went on. He was able to win with kids who didn't think they were good enough a year before. This year, now that the kids believe that they should win, can you take them to win more than nine games? That's the expectation. 9-3 would be an average season. Ten or eleven wins is more expected. Also, a bowl win would be nice."

Jurkovic grew up not too far from South Bend in Calumet City, Illinois. Surprisingly and maybe to the chagrin of some Notre Dame fans, it wasn't all about the Irish growing up.

"You kind of watched the Midwest games," Jurkovic said. "But I actually grew up a bigger Michigan fan than Notre Dame fan. But you still watched the Irish and cared."

Lou Holtz took over in 1986 and guided his first two Notre Dame teams to 5-6 and 8-4 records. Jurkovic was a high school senior entering his 1987 season and had an added benefit right down the hallway in the recruiting process. His brother, John, went to Eastern Illinois where he was a Division I-AA All-American as an offensive lineman. Mirko had some bigger schools knocking at his door and chose the Irish.

"When you have an opportunity to come to Notre Dame, you can't pass it up," Jurkovic said. "It was the right fit for me."

He struck gold in his first season. Jurkovic and his teammates captured the 1988 national championship after beating West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. He earned a monogram that year while playing along the defensive line. It's the last time the Irish have won the national title and Jurkovic thinks it's an experience all Notre Dame classes should experience.

"It's definitely something you never forget," Jurkovic said. "You're part of the history. You're part of something special. The older you get, the more special it is. As far as being part of the last team to win it, that's embarrassing. It's going on 19 years. That's never good. You would like at least every class to win one."

The next season had a different ending. Riding a 23-game winning streak into Miami, Notre Dame lost 27-10 to the Hurricanes, who ended up winning the national championship. Jurkovic, who switched from defensive line to offensive guard during the year, suffered his first loss of his college career.

"To go undefeated, you needed the ball to bounce the right way a couple of times," Jurkovic said. "That team in 1989 might have been more talented than the team in '88. But the ball didn't bounce the right way in Miami. Whether it was not getting the fumble at the three-yard line or them converting a 3rd-and-42…great teams find a way to make those plays. Last year, USC found a way to convert on 4th-and-9 and then get the ball over the goal line. Great teams find that way. That's what separates the great from the good."

Jurkovic got to play under Holtz for all four seasons, truly one of the greats in Notre Dame coaching history. He couldn't point out a single story that exemplified Holtz the best but could tell a little something about his demeanor.

"The thing that was great about Coach Holtz was how demanding he was of everyone," Jurkovic said. "I don't have a certain story but he demanded a lot out of you, whether you were a trainer or a manager or a coach or a player. It had to be perfect and that mentality trickled down. That's something you rarely see. Everyone is on pins and needles and you have to be perfect."

Jurkovic has yet to meet current offensive line coach John Latina. But the fact that Latina learned under Joe Moore is good enough for him. Moore coached Jurkovic for all four seasons while at Notre Dame. Although Moore passed away a few years back, the respect and love that Jurkovic had for his old position coach is still evident.

"Coach Moore meant so much to me," Jurkovic said. "Other than my father, he was the most pivotal man in my life. He taught me so much on and off the field. He had a certain way of doing things. His wife always said that he loved his linemen more than her. And that might have been true. He was special and I'm proud to have played for him."

His senior season year brought some high points and low points. The good: Jurkovic was named an All-American on the 10-3 team and also captured the award for the team's best offensive lineman. The bad: the one-point loss at home to Tennessee after blowing a huge first half lead.

"We were beating them up pretty good the first half," Jurkovic said. "They ran a blocked field back for a touchdown right before half. We ended up losing 35-34 on a blocked field goal that Jeremy Lincoln blocked with his right gluteus maximus. By far, that was the most painful. We were dominating and before we knew it, we lost. That was a tough loss at home, especially since it was my last."

Nowadays, as stated above, Jurkovic can view games like these from up in the press box and then rant and rave after the contest on the radio. He's not the only one in his family involved with Notre Dame. His wife, Angi, has a coloring book out for children that prospective buyers can purchase at the bookstore or on the alumni website. The title is "Notre Dame Coloring and Activities Book."

"When we use to take our kids to games a while back, we'd bring them tailgating and try to find them something to do," Jurkovic said. "With a coloring book, they can sit and color in the car. We took the ball, ran with it and met with Notre Dame. My wife is an artist and the author of the book." Top Stories