Juriga takes 'farm strong' mentality to Philadelphia Eagles

  • Western Michigan's Luke Juriga, a Marmion graduate, has signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. His father, Jim, played three seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos.

    Western Michigan's Luke Juriga, a Marmion graduate, has signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. His father, Jim, played three seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos. Courtesy of Western Michigan athletics

  • Luke Juriga, at center for Western Michigan University, has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Luke Juriga, at center for Western Michigan University, has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Courtesy of Western Michigan athletics

  • Luke Juriga at his graduation from Western Michigan University with his parents Denise and Jim.

    Luke Juriga at his graduation from Western Michigan University with his parents Denise and Jim. Courtesy of the Juriga family

  • Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway scrambles to safety during the 1990 AFC Championship. Lineman Jim Juriga (66) gets up after blocking his man to rejoin the play.

    Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway scrambles to safety during the 1990 AFC Championship. Lineman Jim Juriga (66) gets up after blocking his man to rejoin the play. Associated Press

  • Luke Juriga, with his sister Kim, after he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Luke Juriga, with his sister Kim, after he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. Courtesy of Jim Juriga

 
 
Updated 4/29/2020 4:25 PM

Luke Juriga impressed NFL scouts in many ways.

Footwork, handwork, bend, staying low, blocking in space.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They factored into the Philadelphia Eagles quickly signing the 6-foot-4, 302-pound center as a free agent out of Western Michigan University, and Marmion Academy, after Saturday's NFL Draft.

His father, former NFL lineman Jim Juriga, set an early tone.

"It's definitely a lot of taking care of your body," Luke Juriga said. "He really stressed just being strong as a whole, like 'farm strong' where you're not doing the same lifts so you're developing your whole body."

Farm strong is an apt term.

A 1981 state champion at Wheaton North and a 1983 Big Ten champion at the University of Illinois before he was drafted by Denver in the fourth round of the 1986 NFL draft, Jim Juriga grew up on a farm near Wheaton, where the Klein Creek area is today.

His farm-strong frame was 6 feet, 6 inches and 269 pounds, when NFL offensive tackles still were 269 pounds.

A torn ACL dashed his first two seasons, then he made 42 starts in 44 appearances at offensive tackle and guard for the Broncos from 1988 to 1990.

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He started the 1990 Super Bowl, which the Broncos lost to the 49ers 55-10. A back injury led him to a second career as a veterinarian.

Jim Juriga coached Luke at Haines Middle School in St. Charles and with the Tri-City Chargers youth program, where he also coached his other son, Jake, a former Navy linebacker who now teaches at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Jim continued at Marmion as Dan Thorpe's varsity offensive line coach from 2011 to 2014.

"He's just very smart, he's got a very high football IQ I would say. He's very durable, he's got a great motor. He's got very good feet, he's got good hands. He doesn't stand around piles, he always finished plays," Jim Juriga said of Luke, a 2014 Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State pick.

"As far as coaching him early on, I think that helps from the standpoint of technique and not having a lot of bad habits you have to break."

Dad let the college folks handle it from there. Luke Juriga started all 52 games over four seasons at Western Michigan, earning first-team all Mid-American Conference honors as a junior guard and a senior center, according to the Western Herald.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Named Western Michigan's offensive MVP and chosen to play in the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl, Juriga said he met with contacts from about 20 NFL teams.

Though a Broncos rep told Luke he had scouted his father back in the day, Luke's free-agency finalists were the Eagles, Ravens and Falcons based on line personnel and offenses that fit his skills.

Eagles assistant offensive line coach Roy Istvan said he liked "how easily I could process plays, and how I was taught, basically," Juriga said.

Taught by a pro, Luke takes it from here.

"Whatever he does is what he can do. And he knows he's got his work cut out," Jim Juriga said.

"I think in my situation my dad helped most in developing me at a young age, but it's more just kind of cool him being an NFL player. They're not using that to help evaluate me, as far as I know," Luke Juriga said.

"When I was little I always wanted to grow up and be like my dad and play in the NFL. I have a serious opportunity and it's really exciting."

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