Last year, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reached into Pine-Richland High School for their quarterback of the future. They returned this year for the guy who always dreamed of being under center himself.
Andrew Kristofic is 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds now, but he was the signal caller in his youth rec league and for a short period of time in ninth grade.
“We had a situation where we had a kid playing tackle on the ninth-grade team who got hurt. They needed someone to play,” Kristofic told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I wasn’t playing offense at the time, so I just wanted to play no matter where it was. From there, I just kind of rolled with it.
Kristofic also recognized the talent of Phil Jurkovec, his former — and soon to be future — teammate. The pair helped lead the Gibsonia, Pa. school to a Class 6A state title in 2017, with Jurkovec tossing 39 touchdowns and accounting for an additional 24 with his legs.
Pine-Richland didn’t duplicate its success without Jurkovec, but Kristofic still helped guide a Rams squad that captured its second Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) title.
Kristofic decided before his senior season to skip basketball season and enroll early at Notre Dame, after watching Jurkovec wrestle with a similar decision.
“On top of all the academic benefits, athletically you get there with coach [Matt] Balis and his strength staff for a whole six months before most of my class gets there. For a person in my position and situation, that’s the best thing possible,” Krisotfic told the Post-Gazette.
The tackle told Blue & Gold Illustrated that increasing his strength is his top priority.
“Like most young guys coming in playing this position, you’re going to be competing against guys that are a couple years older that have been in the program having professional nutritionists and trainers with them,” he said. “It’s all about making up that time on top of being able to learn and grasp everything the game entails at the next level.”
Coach Balis can't wait to get @AKristofic21 in the weight room this January.— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) December 19, 2018
The high school teammate of @pjurkovec keeps the Pittsburgh pipeline tradition alive.#GoIrish ☘️ #FightClub19 pic.twitter.com/Hg9KeR6sry
Kristofic is ranked No. 229 in the 247 Sports Composite, considered the 21st offensive tackle overall and the best player in Pennsylvania. Despite being the lowest rated of the four 2019 linemen — all who are enrolling early — the Keystone State product may have the biggest upside.
“This is a recruit that was coveted by so many schools across the country because those sources believe he has ‘first round potential’ when talking about the NFL Draft,” wrote Irish Illustrated’s Tom Loy. “In talking to one source after he committed to Notre Dame, I was told, ‘He’s going to be so good. Notre Dame got lucky on that one. That dude has the chance to be the first tackle taken in a few years.’”
.@AKristofic21 comes from a football family and an exemplary HS program.— Jeff Quinn (@CoachJeffQuinn) December 19, 2018
He has the size and length we look for at the offensive tackle position.
Can't wait to get to work with him! pic.twitter.com/S9mMP11mV3