Andrews refocused on maintaining weight, improving upon All-American season

Updated: August 30, 2003, 1:13 PM ET

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Shawn Andrews knew he opened himself to criticism when he went home to Camden this summer, leaving school and summer workouts behind.

Did Arkansas' All-American offensive tackle think so much of himself that he didn't need to prepare for August drills with his teammates?

And once home, wouldn't the Southeastern Conference's best blocker load up on mom's cooking, adding unneeded weight to a 6-foot-5 frame that struggled to carry 380 pounds at the end of last year?

Andrews' answers: No. Some teammates knew he was headed home to spend time with his mom; and No. He's down to about 350 pounds and he wants to lose 10 more before Arkansas opens its season next Saturday against Tulsa.

"I just had to get away. Most of the teammates I talked to understood that I needed a break," said Andrews, the first Arkansas sophomore named to The Associated Press All-America team. "I felt like no matter what anyone said, I had to leave because I wouldn't be able to contribute to the team like I wanted to this year."

Some teammates may not have known Andrews' reasons for leaving and been offended by his departure, but offensive line coach Mike Markuson said Andrews has mended those relationships.

"He's made some testaments to his team. He has re-established the respect of his teammates," Markuson said. "I told him that I was proud of the fact that I sensed there was better dialogue among some different players."

Two things sent Andrews scurrying home: Forming a support team with his brother Stacy for their mother Linda, and getting away from agents fishing for the tackle's attention.

The oldest Andrews brother, Army Sgt. Derrick Andrews, 28, has been in Iraq since the war started. While Shawn Andrews was home, Jonathan Cheatham, a 19-year-old cousin in the Army Reserves, was killed in combat on July 26, putting more strain on his family.

Andrews said an August return for his brother was pushed back to next spring, but it could be as soon as December.

"Lately, he's been calling quite a bit," Andrews said. "He's been down. He's lost a couple of friends."

Andrews said his brother lost a friend in a vehicle explosion two weeks ago after security duties kept Derrick Andrews from being in the vehicle.

Shawn Andrews, born on Christmas Day in 1982, is the youngest of three boys raised by Linda Andrews. Even though he was the baby, he said his mother treated all three the same and did her best to give them all they wanted.

The Andrews boys did their best not to get upset when that didn't happen, because they knew how hard she worked.

"Every day I go out to practice, she's my motivation because there's been many times when I've said 'Forget about it, I'm going home," Andrews said. "I've got to do everything for my mom, so I guess I could say I'm a momma's boy."

Andrews chose not to follow his brother Stacy Andrews to Ole Miss, where Stacy is a two-time All-American track and field athlete. Stacy Andrews (6-5{, 330 pounds) didn't play football for the Rebels until last year, when he redshirted, and Shawn Andrews said his brother moved up to second-string right tackle last week.

Stacy Andrews is the only Arkansan on the Ole Miss roster.

"He's still an Arkansas guy," Shawn Andrews said. "He took motivation from some guys making fun of him for not having a scholarship. Now, those guys that were making fun of him, he's whipping them in practice everyday."

Shawn Andrews' penchant for whipping just about every opponent he's faced in two seasons at Arkansas indirectly led to the other reason he escaped to Camden this summer. His strength, size and quickness make him a near-lock for the NFL and he said agents and their affiliates starting chasing him around Fayetteville.

"I got away from a lot of people who were following me around town and just bugging me," said Andrews, who was forced to change all of his phone numbers. "I had agents, agents' runners and guys coming up to me in all kinds of different ways in disguise. I could never get away from them. They were following me home and it kind of got out of hand."

In 2001, Andrews earned freshman All-America honors after becoming the third offensive lineman in school history to start during his first season. He allowed one sack and started the final nine games at right tackle.

Last year, Andrews earned All-America status from just about anyone who names a team and the SEC's Jacobs Award, which is given to the league's top blocker. He helped pave the way for the top rushing attack in the SEC, as the Razorbacks averaged 218.9 yards per game.

"I felt like we worked well as a unit, but he did some things that were special and extraordinary for someone his age," Markuson said. "He's gifted with very good feet."

Andrews, who bench presses 520 pounds, is quick to credit his teammates for the honors and coach Houston Nutt said Andrews showed his talent by performing well even when he was overweight.

"He'd be the first one to tell you that the last three games he didn't play as well as he's capable," Nutt said. "He's an amazing athlete being able to do what he could do even at 380 pounds."

Camden has a little more than 13,000 people, so Andrews grew up far away from big city lights and responsibilities.

In the past year, Andrews has grown up, learning that with fame comes all kinds of responsibility, from leadership duties to knowing all the rules.

In May, he unknowingly endangered his eligibility when he took a couple of items from an unauthorized gift bag at the Playboy All-American awards and photo banquet. The items, a water bottle and two T-shirts, were valued at $20.50. He returned the bottle and paid for the shirts.

The university expects the NCAA to clear Andrews, as it has other athletes who were at the event, before Saturday's home opener with Tulsa.

"Sometimes there is pressure on him because he's received a lot of accolades," Markuson said. "Shawn's just a good old country kid from Camden, Arkansas. How he communicates to his peers, how he acts, he's scrutinized."

Andrews expects that to continue during his junior season, one which Nutt has acknowledged could be the tackle's last at Arkansas. Andrews said he's finishing an insurance policy that would protect future NFL earnings if he suffers a career-ending injury.

He said the policy takes into account what his signing bonus and rookie salary could be. He's been told he could expect to take out a policy for $6 million to $7 million.

Andrews said leaving will depend on how well he plays this season and on how well the team finishes after a disappointing end to 2002. Last year, Arkansas was 9-3 before embarrassing losses to Georgia in the SEC title game and Minnesota in the Music City Bowl.

Andrews said he started realizing his role as a leader toward the end of his freshman year. He noticed as he gained weight last year and his fun-loving spirit diminished, that it affected those around him.

"I felt myself going down the last couple of games we played," Andrews said. "I was just in the mode of overeating. At that time I took away the pressure from myself by just eating and eating. I have a better grasp on that this year."

Andrews said the last time he remembers giving up a sack was at LSU when he was a freshmen. However, he's quick to point out how Georgia defensive end David Pollack, the SEC's defensive player of the year, ran circles around him by the end of the title game last year.

Andrew said that, by the second half, "when I ran out of gas, he still had a full tank. That's my goal this year, to be in the best shape possible because there are a lot of guys that are super quick."

Markuson will be there this year to make sure Andrews meets that goal.

"Weight with him is an issue, but I try to tell him the slimmer you are, the leaner you are, the faster you're going to be on the field," Markuson said. "He's an awesome blocker and at this point in time he can get away with some things he might not be able to get away with later."

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