Jurevicius experiences highs, lows
Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 11:41 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA-- This one was for his newborn son. For his wife, who gave birth a couple of weeks prematurely. For his teammates, who prayed for him and his family.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to the Super Bowl, in large part because Joe Jurevicius found a way to put aside his worries for a day, to make one catch that changed the game and ended a week of soaring and sinking emotions.
``I've been at the highest. I've been at the lowest. I'm back at the highest,'' Jurevicius said.
His 71-yard catch-and-run gave the Bucs the momentum they needed in a 27-10 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
``When my kid gets healthy and looks back on this, I want him to be proud and remember this moment,'' Jurevicius said.
He went from ``the best day of my life'' on Tuesday, when his wife, Meagan, gave birth to their first child, Michael William, to several days and nights filled with fears and tears, hope and prayers that he would survive in good health.
He stayed home with his family, missing practices, and didn't arrive in Philadelphia until late Saturday afternoon to ``high-fives and hugs'' from his teammates.
Jurevicius isn't the big playmaker on the Bucs. He's often the third or fourth option on plays. But he's a key man who would have been sorely missed.
As his son struggled through the first 48 hours, Jurevicius thought several times that he might not make it to the game.
``Family is first,'' he said. ``Football will always remain second to me.''
By Thursday, after his son stabilized, Jurevicius decided he had to come.
``My family needed me to do this,'' he said. ``It's what my son, my wife, my in-laws, my parents needed me to do. I needed to be out here. I needed to go run around. I needed to be hit. I needed to hit.
``My son is a fighter. For everything he's gone through this week, the least I could do is hop on a plane and get down here and try to put everything behind me and play football.''
Jurevicius' big moment on the field came late in the first quarter, when the Bucs trailed 7-3. A fine white sheen of frost was just beginning to form on the artificial turf in the last game at Veterans Stadium, and Eagles fans were whipping their white towels and roaring.
On third-and-2 at the Tampa 24, Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson threw a short pass to the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Jurevicius as he cut across the middle. He picked up a block, cradled the ball in his left arm, and took off down the left side of the field before getting pushed out of bounds at the Eagles 5-yard line.
It was a moment that briefly silenced the crowd, stopped all that towel-waving, and altered the course of the game. Two plays later, Mike Alstott bolted into the end zone for a 10-7 Tampa Bay lead.
The Bucs, who hadn't scored an offensive touchdown in their last three visits to the Vet, dating to the 2000 playoffs, sensed that this time would be different.
``That play really got us going,'' Bucs coach Jon Gruden said.
Gruden seemed overwhelmed afterward at how his week, filled with so many churning emotions, turned out.
``I got a chill in this locker room before the game and it wasn't from the draft,'' Jurevicius said. ``I knew that we were going to do something special today and we did. Right now I'm on cloud nine. I can't wait to go home and give my son the biggest kiss in the world and hug my wife and tell my family I love them.''
Michael William was born at 6 pounds, 1 ounce, and Jurevicius figures that ``by the time it's all said and done he's going to be 6-foot-5, 245.''
For the moment, his message for his son will be simple:
``Daddy's going out to try to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the Super Bowl.''
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