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Gridiron great 'went hard to the whistle'

February 2012 | by Craig DeVrieze

Bob Jurevitz '86 never made much of the record numbers he achieved as a St. Ambrose running back from 1982-85.

He dated his future wife, Tracey, for months before she even had an inkling he had played college football at all, let alone led the nation's NAIA teams in touchdowns with 27 as an SAU senior a few years earlier.

He introduced his sons Mitch and Keaton to football as grade schoolers in Port Byron, Ill., but never mentioned to either that he still held SAU records for touchdowns in a career (64) and season (27) and, until 1996, for yards rushing in a career (5,126).

"I didn't know about the records until one of his buddies told me," said Keaton, now a senior at Bettendorf High School.

In death, however, the modest and rugged running back made poignantly clear how much his SAU playing days meant to him and how important at least one Fighting Bees number was in his memory.
Jurevitz was buried on Nov. 26 in a St. Ambrose jersey featuring his familiar No. 44.

"That's what he wanted," Tracey Jurevitz said recently. "He didn't want farming stuff, even though farming was his life. I just think Ambrose made him feel better as a person. It was a very important part of his life."

Jurevitz rewrote the SAU record book over his four seasons under John Furlong, establishing a reputation as the toughest player on the field in the process.

"He was just a battering ram," said Mike Poster '88, SAU's vice president for finance and a former Bees offensive lineman who spent his first two college seasons clearing running lanes for Jurevitz. "He ran over a lot of linebackers. He was a load to bring down."

Yet, as well-earned as Jurevitz's reputation for toughness was over his four years at SAU, it is a reputation he truly cemented while battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for the last four of his 48 years.

Jurevitz died on Nov. 19, nearly two years to the day after doctors finally determined the problems he had been fighting the previous two years were owed to the incurable disease that took the life of baseball's Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig.

He died a half year after fighting back from six days in a coma.

And, most amazingly, he died a day after watching Keaton, a lifelong linebacker, score his first prep touchdown in the Iowa Class 4A state championship.

Keaton's Bulldogs lost, but the son said his disappointment was lessened upon learning his father stood up on his own to applaud his touchdown after needing help to stand throughout the previous month.

"It is probably the proudest I have ever been of myself, just because I could make him happy," said the son, who arrived home after midnight that night to find his father waiting to talk.

Friends said the elder Jurevitz was hanging on to see his son's final game. But Tracey said the last week of the old running back's life supplied him comfort and closure on several other fronts, too.

One daughter, Lexy, turned 16 that week. Another, Brandy, attended her first dance. And oldest son Mitch, who had taken over the family hog farm from his father, brought the crops in.

Earlier, the proud SAU grad also won promises from each child that they would get a college education, Keaton said.

"He saw it through," Dan Burich '86, DPT '10 said of his former Bees backfield mate's last days. "To the very end, he went hard to the whistle."


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