It’s not hard to spot Thomas Andrews in a crowd. At 5’7, 165, he looks more equipped to be playing soccer or running cross country than to be taking bone-crushing hits from linebackers and safeties. Add to it the million dollar smile and the “unique” hair style, and one will not easily miss the Crown College wide receiver.
However, there is a whole lot more than meets the eye than simple looks. Thomas Andrews stands out for a lot of other reasons as well, most importantly because there seems to be no obstacle that is too overwhelming for him to conquer. Any obstacle, no matter the hurdle, is nothing more than a simple challenge to the senior, and this has been demonstrated to its fullest since arrival at Crown College.
It is a truly remarkable story to tell, but one that no one should be surprised by. After all, the role model for the senior is one of the most remarkable parts of the story.
A Role Model for Success
To understand what drives Thomas Andrews, one need look no further than his mother – the person he refers to as the greatest inspiration of his life. Thomas’ mother, Mary Mejia, is from Guatemala, and she struggled to raise her children on her own.
“My father was from Belize, but he was not as much of a part of our lives. She raised us all by herself and, when I was like five or six, she moved us here to the United States. It was a dream come true for her.”
Life was not easy for Thomas and his family. Growing up in Texas, they did not have very much, but his mother made a commitment to her son and daughter that she would ensure that she would give them every opportunity to succeed and she delivered.
“She had to start from scratch. We lived in the smallest house ever and she had to work all the time. But it was still America and so it was so much nicer to be here then where we were in Belize. She made a promise to us that she would get us into one of the better school districts in Texas and she fulfilled that my eighth grade year. My sister and I were so proud of her for doing that.”
Following the State Tradition
In Texas, football is almost a religion, and there was no doubt that Thomas Andrews was captivated by the sport as well. He joined his team’s squad at Fossil Ridge High School (Kennedy, TX) and spent two seasons on the school’s varsity football team. He moved to the defensive side of the ball, playing cornerback, where he excelled.
“Growing up in Texas teams threw a lot more so I was more involved in the game, and I loved being able to match up. While I got to help on the run, I loved that one-on-one matchup.”
Thomas played on the varsity team his junior and senior season, manning the corner position as a junior, but he would be utilized much more as a senior. In 10-games in his senior season, Thomas intercepted a pass and made 48-tackles. He also returned four-kickoffs.
Swapping One Storm for Another
While many students leave home following high school to go off to follow a certain pathway in their education or to play a sport at the collegiate level, Thomas Andrews was looking for a change of environment for a whole new reason. He was looking to get away from the influences around him, and found that Crown College offered him many great advantages, including distance.
“In high school I had many struggles with all different kinds of stuff. One of the reasons that I chose Crown was that I wanted to change for the better. I wanted a place that gave me a fresh start.”
One aspect of Crown College that many take issue with is that the school is literally out in the middle of nowhere. While technically located in the Twin Cities area, it is about a 30 minute drive from the heart of Minneapolis, making it fairly secluded. Some don’t particularly like that, but Thomas found it ideal.
“At this school, you definitely have to be looking to go down the road here. We’re not that type of school where you can just go out and do the things you can do at other schools.”
A New Pathway to Success
Thomas Andrews came to Crown College looking to find his career path. He chose to major in General Studies looking to find exactly what he wanted to do with himself. Interestingly enough, an odd event opened the door to his new career.
“My freshman year there are actually no barber shops around in this area, so I had to pick up a pair of clippers and just cut my own hair. I got to be sort of good I guess, and so my friends were asking me to cut their hair, and I thought that this was actually kind of fun and would be something I would want to do for the rest of my life. I guess it was a hidden talent I never knew I had.”
Thomas taught himself to cut his own hair and has now become the school’s de facto barber. Oddly enough, the fact that the school was out in a rather secluded location opened the door for his future career, and now he sees himself owning his own business one day.
The Gridiron Aids in Excellence
While wanting to ensure a pathway that gave him the best opportunity for success, Thomas Andrews also chose to come to Crown College because he wanted to play football. The then-freshman began his first season as one of the team’s cornerbacks, and had a successful start. He made 18-tackles and led the Storm with 4-interceptions. He also broke up six passes.
It was a great start to his career, made better by the fact that he truly came to embrace the ideals of the school. Crown College is a Christian college, which is truly living out the ideals of Jesus, and the way that the coaching staff welcomed and embraced Thomas had an immediate impact.
“This is one of the best parts about Crown. The coaches really care here. They are involved in what is going on with each of the players, and really make it so that football is not their top priority. I have always felt that they cared more about me as a person than as a player.”
That proved to be no more true than in his sophomore season. Thomas was injured and unable to play the entire year, so he spent a lot of time watching and helping out wherever he could.
“This is a team like nothing I have experienced. I wanted to be involved still, and the coaches let me do that. It made not being able to play a whole lot easier.”
Life from the Other Side
As the Storm were about to enter the 2016 season, a new offensive coordinator was brought in. Matt Bremer had been a huge success at St. Scholastica, and returned to his alma mater looking to implement a much more up tempo style of offense. To accomplish this, he needed more players to run his spread offense, and Thomas Andrews was happy to step out from the defense and lineup with the offense.
“I like that I am now more involved being on offense. There was a lot more tackling my freshman year and so, on offense, I can actually showcase my talents and skills.”
To prepare for his new role with the team, Thomas called on the expertise of his girlfriend to throw passes to him during the summer. With her assistance and a lot of hard work, the results paid off immediately.
The offense struggled early on to catch up to the tempo that Coach Bremer had set, but as the season went along the group got better and better. Thomas starred from the start, and became a huge part of the offense. The Storm started the year against Hamline University and the then junior made his presence known right away, making 8-receptions for 86-yards. He would have another 8-reception game against Martin Luther College in week 3, gaining a season-high 122-yards and scoring 2-TDs. Combined, the Crown wide receiver caught 28-passes for 346-yards, both second best on the team.
Being a Good Role Model
Thomas Andrews came to Crown College because he wanted to get his adult life off on the right foot. He wanted to create a life that he could be proud of and make his mom proud of the young man she raised. Now he has someone else to be a good role model for.
Thomas has a young son with his girlfriend, which would seem to be an overwhelming addition for any college student, but the senior not only wants to set a good example for his son, but also to be one for others on the campus.
“I have been through so much here. I had a child and so having a child and finishing school is a role that I think that guys look at me and that can be an inspiration to them. I definitely think that is my role.”
While having a child has done a lot to help Thomas to grow, his whole experience at Crown College has brought a great deal of maturity. It is something where the experiences he had with his teammates have become far more important to him than the stats and wins.
“Hanging out with my friends. That has been the part that I have enjoyed the most. I didn’t realize that until I actually got older. I love playing football but, now that I have gotten older, the relationships that I have built with the guys on this team have really become the funnest part. The long trips sitting on the bus with my friends, joking around with my friends, that has been the best.”
With just one more season left of football, this is sure to be a bitter-sweet campaign for Thomas Andrews. He has been an integral part of the Storm’s change in offense, a change that is likely to see the team rise to the top of UMAC in coming years.
It will be a legacy that the Crown College senior can say he was a part of, but change has been a big part for Thomas Andrews as well. Thanks to the spirit of perseverance that his mother instilled in him, he has endured a lot of hardships that have helped to make him one of the finest young men anyone will meet. He is clearly proving that no matter the mountain in his way, he will overcome and thrive.
By Robert Pannier