ORONO, Maine — Max Andrews was ready to call Will Sanborn, the baseball coach at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, as he hoped to pitch for the Monks.
Football was Andrews’ favorite sport, but the former John Bapst Memorial High School star hadn’t heard from the University of Maine, so he was prepared to attend St. Joe’s, which doesn’t sponsor a football program.
“I had come back from a basketball game, and I was telling my parents Maine hadn’t called so I might as well call coach Sanborn,” Andrews recalled. “But right after dinner, [former UMaine defensive line coach] coach [Jordan] Stevens called and offered me $1,000 to play at Maine.
“That was a really great feeling. I could set my mind on playing football. I could ease away from playing baseball a little bit,” said Andrews, who is the starting center this season for the Black Bears football team.
He wouldn’t have received any money to attend Saint Joseph’s as NCAA Division III schools can’t award athletic scholarships.
“Football is my true love because, to me, it’s something not a lot of people can do,” said Andrews, who is the son of Victor and Kimberly Andrews. “Baseball is a very skillful sport, and it takes a lot of talent to do baseball. At the same time, it takes a lot more more skill and toughness and determination to play football.
“And the gains you get from football are definitely once in a lifetime,” he added.
Max Andrews’ story is a lesson in perseverance and resilience. This year, he was finally rewarded with a full scholarship by the UMaine coaching staff.
He grew up in the small town of Holden, which has a population of about 3,100, and played youth football in Brewer. But when he got to middle school, he didn’t get to play a lot.
“They had a lot of Brewer kids, and they were the best athletes,” said Andrews. “It was tough. There weren’t going to be a lot of opportunities to play for Brewer. It made me not want to go to Brewer.”
So he followed his brother Cody and sister Chelsea to John Bapst in Bangor, where he started at defensive end as a freshman and played in the state championship game.
Max Andrews played numerous positions, primarily defensive end and tight end, and he was a three-time, all-conference selection and a finalist for the Gaziano Award given to the state’s top offensive and defensive linemen.
“I was definitely grateful for the opportunity I had at John Bapst and the memories we created,” said Andrews, who played for coach Dan O’Connell.
He redshirted his freshman year at UMaine and spent a lot of time bulking up in the weight room. The next season, he saw some duty on the special teams.
“I was always the back-side tight end. We had a couple of tight ends who would release and run pass routes, and I’d stay in and protect the quarterback,” said Andrews.
A rotator cuff injury suffered during the spring of 2015 resulted in surgery, and he wound up playing in just four games last season. He was moved to the interior offensive line last spring, and he embraced it.
“It was an opportunity for me to re-start my career,” he said.
Andrews figured if new head coach Joe Harasymiak and offensive coordinator Liam Coen believed in him and in the move they were making, “I was obligated to believe in them.”
“They know what’s best for the team,” said Andrews. “If they felt moving me inside was the best thing for the team, by all means put me there.”
He began the season as a tackle but was switched to center where it is his responsibility to call out the blocking schemes for each play in addition to delivering the ball to the quarterback.
“You have to watch a lot of film because you have to identify what the defense is bringing. You have to see how the defense is lined up and read the keys. If you make the wrong call, you can have a guy coming off the edge unblocked,” said Andrews.
“I really like being a center. I like being in control, and I’m always on the ball. There’s a lot of pressure, but I like dealing with the pressure,” he said.
Coen said Andrews’ team-first approach has helped him make such a successful transition to center.
“He has been phenomenal,” said Coen. “He’s a kid who does everything you ask. He does everything the right way on and off the field. He has proven to be a very high-quality center in this league. He’s extremely smart, fast and athletic, and he’s strong enough.”
“To come in and play one of the hardest positions in football … he has all the keys and checks in the line. To be able to pick it up and start for us is a great tribute to him and what he can be,” said senior quarterback Dan Collins.
Harasymiak said people don’t realize how difficult it is to make the rare switch from tight end to starting center at the Division I level.
“It’s really impressive … not only his mentality to get it done but his athletic ability has given him the chance to compete in there. He has done a real good job,” said Harasymiak.
Andrews, who was a versatile offensive weapon at John Bapst, never envisioned being asked to become a lineman at UMaine.
“I never would have believed it,” he laughed. “I was 220 pounds, and I had never lifted weights a day in my life. The first time I lifted weights was the summer workouts going into the 2012 season. I was never big enough, never strong enough. I never thought I could play at the next level until I got the opportunity.”
Andrews, who weighs 270 pounds, said he has enjoyed the season so far. The 3-3 Black Bears (2-1 Colonial Athletic Association), play at the University of Rhode Island on Saturday.
“Everything is going well. I’m getting better at practice every day,” Andrews said.
“I watch a lot of film, but I kind of enjoy it now because I’m actually in the film,” he said.
Andrews also has learned the art of time management, having to attend classes in the morning, attend practice in the afternoon and still find time to study and relax.
“After practice, you’re dead tired and you have to figure out how to do your classwork. You have to be able to multitask and set yourself ahead of schedule,” said Andrews, who is an exceptional student with one of the highest grade point averages on the team.
He said his experience at UMaine goes far beyond his time spent on the football field and will serve him well in the future.
“I’ve become a better man,” he said. “I want to become a father some day, and I’ve developed skills that I can teach my kids based on the things I’ve learned here — mental, physical toughness; being able to multi-task.”