Virginia Military Institute defensive coordinator Bob Forgrave hasn't seen many football players like Andy Andrews.
Some have had moretalent, but few have had the mental toughness that enabled the Fallston High graduate to come back from a severe knee injury two years ago. Although the injury slowed him down last year, Andrews has bouncedback with a strong senior season.
Going into this weekend's season finale, Andrews has started every game at outside linebacker. He ranks ninth on the VMI team in totaltackles through the first 10 games.
"He just has the perseverance," said Forgrave. "Andy's a very mentally, physically tough individual. A lot of people with the type of injury he had probably never would have come back and played."
After kicking off a banner sophomorecampaign, Andrews was injured in the Keydets' eight game of the 1989season, against Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va.
Andrewsremembers it well. Chasing a running back on a flea flicker, he tried to change direction to go after the quarterback. But his foot caught in the artificial turf.
As he went down on the play, Andrews twisted his leg, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and some cartilage. He needed three operations to repair the tears as well as shattered bone fragments.
Arthroscopic surgery in October 1989 determinedthe extent of the damage. Andrews returned home for major reconstructive surgery at Union Memorial Hospital just before Thanksgiving thatyear. He started rehabilitation around Christmas. In February 1990, he needed more surgery to repair scar tissue.
But Andrews was backin the Keydets' starting lineup by the third game of the 1990 season. In his first game back, a 24-20 VMI victory over James Madison, Andrews had six solo tackles and four assists. He also recovered a fumble that set up the game-winning field goal.
Swelling in the knee sidelined him for the final two games, proving he hadn't fully recovered. Still, Andrews finished ninth on the squad with 42 tackles, thoughhe only played seven full games.
This year, Andrews has come close to a full recovery.
"When he first came back, he was nervous," said Forgrave. "He didn't feel he had his speed, which he didn't. He was worried whether he could be the football player he was about to become before the injury. This year, I think he has proven he has."
Going into the final game, Andrews had recorded 36 tackles and 24 assists, successfully making the conversion from inside linebacker.
"I don't think I have quite the strength in my leg or the speed I had before, but I'm happy with the progress," said Andrews, who called the defensive signals this year for the Keydets. "After the surgery, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I just wanted to work hard and do whatever I could."
For Andrews, a biology major headed for medicalschool, the long hours spent in rehabilitation have been worth it. But they have been a small part of the drive that has carried Andrews successfully through the rigors of a military college.
"Andy, he'sa special guy," said Forgrave. "He does as well academically as he does on the football field. He's not real vocal, but he leads by example. He's a very hard worker, and he'll be very successful in whateverhe choses in life."
Fallston High graduate