Chasing The Dream: Andrews inches closer to NFL future

Published 11:44 am Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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This time last year, Troy offensive lineman Jake Andrews wasn’t on many NFL scouts’ radars, but now he will likely be the first Trojan lineman to be selected in the NFL Draft since 2017.

Andrews, a Millbrook native, started his Troy career as an offensive guard and was a solid starter from 2019 through 2021 at the position. In 2021, he was rated as Troy’s top-rated pass blocker and second-rated run blocker via Pro Football Focus. Still, there didn’t seem to be much attention coming his way from the NFL. During spring practices last season, Andrews made the move to center.

“A year ago this time, Jake finished his first practice at center and had never played center before,” Troy Coach Jon Sumrall said earlier this spring. “Last summer, when the NFL scouts would call me, no one was calling me to ask me about Jake, not one. “Now, he’s about to get drafted. It’s really neat to see a guy live out a dream and really kind of come off the radar to a guy that we all know is going to get drafted, it’s just about when. It couldn’t happen to a better person. When you work extremely hard, you’re ridiculously selfless and a great teammate on top of being a fairly talented, good things happen.”

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Andrews was one of the top interior linemen in all of the Group of 5 last season, earning First-Team All-Sun Belt honors and appearing on the Watch List for the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top center. As a result of his success in 2022, Andrews decided to forgo his last year of eligibility to enter the 2023 NFL Draft.

“If you would have asked me, I would have sworn I’d be out here playing ball here at Troy right now,” Andrews said. “God has blessed me with the opportunity to play this game at a pretty high level and I was able to do that this past season with my brothers out here.

“Playing center was big for me because that showed I can play all three interior positions, which is the versatility all the NFL guys like. I’m blessed to be able to do that.”

While the NFL has been a dream for Andrews, it still wasn’t an easy decision for the 6-foot-3-inch, 305-pound lineman.

“Conference championship, bowl game, had a really good season personally and I turned 23 in November,” Andrews said of his decision. “I just got engaged before the season and I’m getting married in May. So, I was ready to take that next step. It was a hard decision for me, a lot of emotion and a lot of my heart is out here in Troy, so it was really tough.

“I’m forever indebted to this place but it was just time for me to follow my dream. I didn’t want to slow down on my dream. I’m getting older, so all of those factors keyed into the decision. It’s hard to bargain with your brain and your heart. Your heart is telling you that you love it here and want to stay but my brain was telling me, logically, let’s go chase our dream. This is what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Not only was Andrews selected to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile but he was also selected to compete at the NFL Combine. Andrews turned heads with his performances there but also with his interviews with teams. At Troy’s Pro Day on March 21, Andrews also showed off his strength putting up a bench press mark that would have been the sixth most at the combine, as well.

“I didn’t have to go through all the drills. For me, being an offensive lineman, it’s a little bit better to not have to run and get the heartbeat up the entire time,” Andrews said of the NFL Combine. “It was a really good experience. You get to meet and get to know all these scouts. I already got to know a lot of them there. (Pro Day) is kind of the last key part to the process. It’s all-star games, the combine and then Pro Day stuff.”

Troy’s Jake Andrews (55) was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List. (Photo courtesy of Troy University Athletics)

Between now and the NFL Draft in April, Andrews said he’ll continue to work hard.

“I’m going to get back into football shape,” he said. “I don’t have to run 40s or any of that stuff anymore. I can watch a little film and get my mind into the game a little more and push some bags and sleds and lift heavy weights again.”

While the NFL is a dream for Andrews, he doesn’t simply want to be drafted as he has plenty of goals set out for himself.

“I want to play 10-12 years (in the NFL) and win a Super Bowl,” he emphasized. “The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of all sports to me and I would love to do that and play 10-12 years and be remembered for the way I play the game and that I played it the right way and how good of a teammate I was.”

Andrews’ coach believes he’ll have the long career he desires.

“Jake is a hard worker, he’s talented and he’s passionate about his craft,” Sumrall said. “He’s the kind of guy who will be successful in whatever he does. He’s going to play football for a really long time but he will be successful because he approaches everything with humility and he’s a quality human being who gives his best effort in all things.”

That humility that Sumrall speaks about is not hard to find.

“It’s all just a real blessing. I know I say that a lot but it really is. I wouldn’t be here today without all these guys supporting me,” Andrews emphasized. “Guys like Coach (Cole Popovich), Coach Sumrall, Coach (Joe) Craddock and Rusty Witt and my teammates. I know everyone says it in every interview but I really do mean it. It’s not a one-man show out here for me and all of these guys.

“There is something behind all of us and it’s been such a great experience. It puts everything into perspective and how appreciative of it all you really are. You wouldn’t be here without this support system.”

Andrews has plenty of advice for the players still at Troy that will hopefully one day be getting ready to be drafted, as well.

“Just stick to it. You have to have a lot of discipline,” he emphatically said. “It takes a lot to get to this point. You can ask a lot of the people that have been around me, I put a lot of time and work into it. You have to say no to some things.

“Maybe you don’t go to that party or you don’t eat that certain type of food. You really have to be disciplined and do the right thing and trust in the process. I know that’s a corny thing but giving everything you have to what you want is what it’s about. If this is your dream you have to go get it and it’s a one-day-at-a-time mentality. All the corny sayings that everyone has, they’re true. Just follow them and you’ll make it.”

While many athletes have Draft Parties planned, Andrews is taking a more relaxed approach.

“I haven’t even decided if I’m going to turn it on and watch it,” he said. “I might just let it happen. I might just try to play Monopoly or something to try and get my mind off it and have everybody around. When the phone call happens, we’ll go from there.”

The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 27-29 and will air live on ESPN and the NFL Network.