Growing up in the small town of Maplesville, Ala., there was one thing, and one thing only, to do: play football.
Alabama State wide receiver Nick Andrews, a proud native of the town that has approximately 708 people, according to 2010 U.S. Census, started playing football at a young age and recalled practicing daily with his friends after school.
“Growing up, everybody knew everybody,” Andrews said. “The whole town was a football town. Everyone loves football.”
Andrews was one of the 52 students to graduate from Maplesville High in 2008. He signed to play college football just 55 miles from home in Montgomery, Ala., where ASU coach Reggie Barlow immediately set lofty expectations for Andrews.
Barlow told Andrews that if he didn’t break his very own receiving records by the time he graduated that he would have underachieved. Barlow said, at the time, he saw Andrews had the ability to run good routes and be effective in traffic.
“I knew he was that good,” Barlow said.
Four years later, and Andrews lived up to Barlow’s expectations.
Earlier this season, Andrews passed his coach’s school records in receiving yards and touchdowns, along with claiming the No. 1 spot in receptions. Heading into Saturday’s game against Southern, Andrews has 191 receptions for 2,631 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Barlow, who played wide receiver at Alabama State from 1992-1995, hauled in 133 passes for 2,536 yards and 23 touchdowns.
So how did it feel for a coach to watch his own player surpass his records?
“It’s a pleasure to be a part of it and to be around to congratulate him,” Barlow said. “He’s graceful on the field, and off the field he’s the same way. He’s a guy that comes to work and practices hard every day.”
With two games left in the regular season, Andrews’ record-setting year may not be over. He is 29 receiving yards away from becoming the fourth player in ASU history to record 1,000 or more receiving yards in a single season. The leader? Barlow with 1,267 yards.
The records and other successes have been something Andrews worked hard toward, and the 5-foot-9 receiver attributed Barlow and the other coaches for pushing him to reach his potential.
Before the season, Barlow wanted his players to get a vision or goal for themselves and communicate it verbally to the team.
“I said before I leave that I want to break all the records that coach Barlow holds,” Andrews said. “We joked about it. He told Fred Kaiss (ASU’s offensive coordinator as well as a former Southern assistant) that if I did, it was his last year here as well.”
Both Barlow and Andrews will forever be linked in ASU history, and Barlow believes Andrews could also follow his path and play in the NFL.
Barlow spent eight seasons in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Barlow said Andrews would have to make it with a team that utilizes smaller receivers. Over the course of the season, there have been around 14 scouts on-campus.
“I think he has the skill set to play at the next level,” Barlow said. “He has some of the better hands I’ve seen in a receiver. The scouts have been here; they know about him.”
While his name is etched in ASU’s record books, Andrews also leads all Southwestern Athletic Conference wide receivers in receptions (67) and yards (971) this season. The player closest to Andrews trails by 20 receptions and 215 yards, respectively.
NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang said he would be surprised if Andrews was drafted, but he doesn’t count out the senior receiver.
“He’s a reliable enough receiver that he may get a shot as an undrafted free agent and surprise,” Rang said.
A small guy in stature from a small town, Andrews has had a big impact at ASU, and he may get an opportunity to play professionally.