Meet the Panthers: Q&A with Jerry Drake Jr.


Jerry Drake Jr. explains his decision to commit to Pitt. Courtesy of Pitt Athletics / UPMC Pitt LiveWire

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

Pitt’s newest offensive lineman Jerry Drake Jr. doesn’t like the cold.

Drake, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive lineman from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, could have easily stayed down south to play college ball in the warm, friendly confines of the Southeastern Conference. After all, he had scholarship offers from several of the SEC’s most prestigious programs, including Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Tennessee.

Instead, Drake — a three-star prospect according to Rivals — verbally committed Dec. 15, to join the Panthers’ 2017 recruiting class. To make the decision official, he graduated high school ahead of schedule and enrolled in Pitt for the spring 2017 semester.

The Pitt News caught up with Drake to discuss his reasons for choosing Pitt, getting acclimated to the cold climate and attending the men’s basketball team’s overtime win against Virginia at the Pete.

The Pitt News: With offensive linemen Dorian Johnson and Adam Bisnowaty projected to get selected inside the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, did that factor into your decision to attend Pitt knowing it can send offensive linemen to the next level?

Jerry Drake Jr.: If you can play, they’re going to find you, wherever you go. But I mean yeah, I guess it played a factor knowing that the O-Line coach [John Peterson] is a good dude. I knew Coach Peterson before the recruiting process.

TPN: What made you decide to enroll early at Pitt?

JD: I wanted to get started before everybody else. At my old school, I did so many classes, I didn’t really have anything to do. My junior year [of high school], I was in two English classes, two math classes, so it gave me a chance to enroll earlier. I did online classes and I was able to finish [high school] early.

TPN: What’s your experience been like in Pittsburgh so far?

JD: Cold.

TPN: Did you pack some winter clothes with you from Florida?

JD: At first, I didn’t really have a bunch of long pants. So one day I had on gym shorts. That didn’t go too well. But they give you pants.

TPN: You were at the Pitt men’s basketball game versus Virginia with some of the other players, correct? What was that experience like?

JD: It was pretty cool seeing the student section, how hyped they were. When they score the first points I guess they rip up their tickets and just [throw it up in the air].

Editor’s note: They actually tear up pieces of newspaper and throw them in the air. I know this because it landed all over press row at the Virginia game.

TPN: They won’t throw any confetti at the football game, but does that excite you to see the passion of the Pitt students and the fan base?

JD: Yeah, also I mean, Twitter — when I committed, I got like 300 followers. And there’s some people that wait out like three hours before the game just to get the first seat. It’s just crazy, the fans here are really passionate about the sport.

TPN: Did the Pitt fans on Twitter give you some encouraging messages when you committed?

JD: Yeah, they [message] me every time I post something about Pitt. Like I went to this restaurant, everybody’s [messaging] me, “Wow, man, what restaurant is that? Where can I find it at?” I’ll send people the pamphlet and stuff. So yeah, I like it.

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