SOUTHINGTON – Last Thursday was a brutal day for high school football players in Connecticut, as the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference officially announced that the second semester alternative season had been canceled, meaning no football would be played in the 2020-21 academic year.
For area football players, including Southington senior Ryan Andrews, it meant a final season had been lost, and multiple peaceful protests and pleas to the CIAC weren’t enough to salvage a season.
But for Andrews, last Thursday ended on a much brighter note than it began, as the offensive lineman announced his commitment to Marist College in Dutchess County, New York later that same day.
“It was a nice change to how the day was going after finding out we weren’t going to have our senior season, but it’s not going to replace how a senior season would have felt,” Andrews said. “I should have been playing with all my teammates and friends. I don't understand why it didn't happen, but it's out of my control and I just have to focus on what comes next.”
Andrews’ commitment to the Division-I FCS school helped alleviate the blow of losing what would have been his final season in a Blue Knights uniform, especially given the lack of recruiting options for many other student-athletes in the state, who are struggling to put together recent game film when there hasn’t been a high school football game played in Connecticut in 13 months.
“It's a big relief,” Andrews said. “I feel so terrible for people that lost opportunities this year. I'm so lucky I started talking to Marist before everything got canceled and all this happened. Every other kid that didn't get that opportunity, I just feel terrible. Covid absolutely ruined everything.”
Fortunately for Andrews, the coronavirus outbreak didn’t ruin his chance to play at the next level, though his options certainly took a hit once football activities began to be shut down. After talking with multiple schools, including nearby Central Connecticut State University, Marist appeared to be the favorite, as it brought a sense of comfort and familiarity to a Southington veteran.
“They immediately became my favorite,” Andrews said. “Coach [Mike] Drury went there, and a few teammates went on to play in college there. It seemed like a really nice spot. As time went on and not much more piled up because of covid, I started looking at prep schools and when I decided they didn't have what Marist had to offer, that became my choice.”
Drury, who played for the Red Foxes from 2001 to 2004, recently watched other Blue Knights alumni like wide receiver Will Downes and brothers Sam and Matt Thomson commit to Marist in just the past five years. Marist had become an easy pitch for Drury to his teammates, especially with Jim Parady still coaching the Red Foxes, as he did back when Drury arrived at the school. With plenty of insight to gather, it became clear to Andrews that his collegiate choice would be an easy one.
“I had a couple conversations with ex-teammates, but I definitely talked to coach Drury more,” Andrews said. “He told me about how coach Parady is, because he's been there since coach Drury was a freshman in college. Coach had nothing but good things to say about him and how they take care of the players. I couldn’t see this going in any kind of wrong direction.”
It officially became time for Andrews to start thinking about the next chapter last Thursday when the CIAC canceled football, and it didn’t take long to cement his plans for that chapter. Andrews talked on the phone with Marist offensive coordinator Jake Dembow just hours after the CIAC’s announcement, and while Andrews didn’t plan to make his commitment official by the end of that phone call, the decision became more and more clear as his conversation with Dembow unfolded.
“I kind of thought about it a couple days before I called Coach Dembow and told him I wanted to commit,” Andrews said. “Then when I called him on the phone, I didn't know if I was actually going to commit on the phone that night. But then he started telling me about the culture they're building there, and he was just having a normal one-on-one conversation with me. He wasn't trying to sell anything. It was just a normal person-to-person conversation. He was too genuine for me not to go to this school. He wanted me there, so I decided to commit right there.”
Andrews made the announcement to the rest of the world with a tweet the following day, and has begun preparing for his college career by hitting the gym daily and working out on the turf field at Southington at least twice a week. He would much prefer to be on the field every Friday night with the lights gleaming from overhead, but soon enough, he’ll be taking the field on Saturday afternoons, continuing a deep Southington tradition at Marist.