Tornadoes' Joraskie transforms when he hits the football field
What does it take to turn an otherwise jovial teenager into a brutal force on the football field?
Just a little warpaint and a red and white uniform might do it for some, but Mount Carmel Area's Eric Joraskie only needs the snap of the ball to transform into a lean, mean tackling machine.
"When you go out, you have to be a different person," Joraskie said. "You have to be mean, aggressive and nasty to get what you want accomplished on the field. It's been that way since I was a kid. I don't know if it's a God-given ability to be able to flip that switch, but my coaches with the Jets used to get me mad before plays."
"He always has a smile on his face but transforms himself between the white lines," Mount
Carmel head coach Carmen DeFrancesco said. "He's not cocky or dirty; he knocks the crap out of you fair and square."
It's not the only change Joraskie has undertaken on the football field. The Red Tornadoes' senior, a lineman by nature and training, is this year's biggest, strongest skill position player by a wide margin.
Joraskie, who verbally committed to play football at Northwestern University this summer, was an all-state player last year on the defensive line and helped anchor an offensive line that paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers.
But summer brought a new perspective for Mount Carmel coaches and the idea was floated that Joraskie could prosper as a tight end after pro scouts saw him at a combine for linemen.
The change has resulted in a 6-foot, 4-inch H-back type of player in the Red Tornadoes' offense.
Montoursville, Mount Carmel's opponent in Friday night's District 4 Class AA semifinal, had better account for Joraskie in a number of places.
Joraskie caught his first pass in week three and has eight receptions for 118 yards and one touchdown.
But the Tornadoes added a new wrinkle in the last couple weeks, moving Joraskie into the backfield. He got his first carries as a fullback in last week's 17-0 win over Central Columbia and liked doing that as much as blocking.
"I'm enjoying playing fullback last in the season," Joraskie said. "I wish I'd have gotten the chance earlier in the season but the coaches are working me in there."
For their part, the Tornadoes' coaches are extremely happy with the way he's adapted to the new roles.
"He's lived up to all the expectations we've had," DeFrancesco said. "When we decided to make him a tight end, we extended his duties. He can run, catch and block and last week against Central we used him as a fullback and he was a battering ram. He pummeled Central into the ground."
But Joraskie's biggest contributions are still on defense, where he has 56 tackles and 5½ sacks this season, and even though he was all-state last year, he's still improved in ways that don't show up in the stat line as well as battled through adversity.
"Defensively is where he earned his scholarship," DeFrancesco said. "He's double-teamed every play and held one out of every three plays.
"We knew he could catch. The thing he's improved on the most is his start off the ball. He gets off the ball as quick as anyone I've seen and this is why he'll have a great Big Ten career."
There is one thing Joraskie wants to clarify once and for all. He says he is every bit at home in the weight room as he is on the field, even if DeFrancesco tells anecdotes to the contrary.
"I don't know why he thinks that," Joraskie said, defending the long hours he has put in at an off-campus weight room. "It's a big misconception people have, but I started lifting weights when I was in seventh grade and got more serious about it between eighth grade and my freshman year. I didn't do as much at the school, but I was doing it extracurricularly."
One thing coach and player agree on though is that to play at the next level, like Joraskie has every intention of doing, natural strength is not enough. The desire to see the field, not just be another number on an inflated Division I roster, is what motivates him.
"I want to play," Joraskie said. "In order to do that I have to keep working as hard as I can. I wouldn't be content with standing on the sidelines."
Before Northwestern, Joraskie and his teammates still have a District 4 Class AA title to defend, and with his multitude of roles for the Tornadoes, Joraskie won't likely have much time on the sidelines to flash his trademark grin, and that should spell trouble for Montoursville.