How a position switch put OL Andrew Kristofic on the path to Notre Dame

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Two quarterbacks and future Notre Dame football commits grew up on the same block in a neighborhood north of Pittsburgh.

One was Phil Jurkovec, the U.S. Army All-American and consensus four-star recruit who will arrive with great anticipation in South Bend this summer.

The other was Andrew Kristofic.

Today, Kristofic is a 6-foot-6, 265-pound rising senior offensive lineman, a mobile mauler who sports scholarship offers from Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and many more. He’s one of the most punishing pieces of a Gibsonia (Pa.) Pine-Richland offense that rolled to an undefeated season and a state title last fall.

And yet, despite the offers, and despite the accomplishments, and despite the athletic ceiling that seemingly stretches into the sky, Kristofic is ranked both by Rivals and 247Sports as a modest three-star prospect.

Maybe that’s because, when it comes to his current position, his potential dwarfs his experience.

After all, throughout youth league and even middle school, Kristofic was a strong-armed quarterback.

“In ninth grade, I kind of got away from it and I just played defensive line,” Kristofic said this week. “About halfway through the year we had a kid get injured, and (the coaches) were like, ‘Hey, you’re too big and too good of an athlete to be just sitting on the sideline for offense. Come play offense, and you can hit someone on every play.’ That was exciting for me.

“I hate sitting and watching, so I was going to do anything I could to get on the field. At the time, I was sub-200 pounds and didn’t know anything about the offensive line position, didn’t know where that would lead me.”

Less than three years later, it led him — like Jurkovec — to Notre Dame. Kristofic verbally committed on April 23, less than a month after his first unofficial visit to South Bend.

“Basketball season ended for us on a Saturday, and I was in South Bend Monday night and spent all day Tuesday there,” Kristofic said. “It was a place that I wanted to make sure I visited and did my due diligence. We checked it out. I gave it a fair shot once I was there and saw for myself everything that Phil’s been talking to me about.

“Once I got to see that for myself, I really fell in love with the place and the people there and really have bought in to what they’re selling. It really wasn’t that hard of a decision after that.”

It didn’t matter, either, that Kristofic’s father, Dave Kristofic, played football at Pittsburgh — a program Andrew grew up watching — from 1989 to 1993. It didn’t matter that Pitt was the hometown team, or that Notre Dame was located 360 miles west.

“My dad and I are really close. He was more of a support system, really,” Kristofic said. “He’s been through this process to an extent. I had always said when people asked me about my dad and about Pitt, ‘He got to choose a college when he was 18 years old, just like I get to choose a college at 18 years old.’

“His recruitment and his decision had no bearing on my decision. When we were going through the recruiting process, he was not a Pitt alum or a former Pitt player. He was my dad, No. 1.”

For Kristofic, even with nearly nine months until national signing day, the recruiting process is all but over. The converted offensive lineman is set on Notre Dame, as are four-star offensive line commits Quinn Carroll and John Olmstead.

And, though he’s far from the only reason, first-year offensive line coach Jeff Quinn has a lot to do with that.

“Coach Quinn has been unbelievable. I love coach Quinn,” Kristofic said. “I didn’t really know coach Quinn until he got hired as the offensive line coach, but very shortly after he got named to the position we started communicating and really building a tight relationship and one that, even now that I’ve committed, we still talk regularly about anything from Notre Dame football in general to whatever’s going on in our lives at that time.

“With the intensity and the knowledge and the passion that he brings together as a coach, and the type of man he is, I’m really a big believer in what he’s going to be able to do with the offensive line in these coming seasons at Notre Dame. I couldn’t be more excited for someone to be my future coach.”

He’s excited, too, to be reunited with Jurkovec, with whom he shared countless pickup football and basketball games in the neighborhood before anyone outside of Pittsburgh knew their names. and he notes that, like Jurkovec, he can still throw a football “really far.”

But, looking back, was there ever a time when Kristofic — not Phil — was the superior quarterback?

“I don’t know. Maybe. I’m not sure,” he said with a laugh. “Obviously, we never got to play quarterback at the same time, but we definitely have slung the rock around with each other a bunch of times throughout the neighborhood.

“It’s been fun. I’ll give Phil the better quarterback title out of the two of us, as of right now.”

Pine-Richland’s Andrew Kristofic celebrates after the Rams recovered a fumble by St. Joseph’s James Cherry during the third quarter of the PIAA Class 6A state championship game Dec. 9, 2017, at Hersheypark Stadium.