Offensive lineman Brandon Andrews comes from Barnegat, a small town in South Jersey, where he was the best lineman at his high school as well as a successful student. Upon arriving at Montclair State University, however, he realized that it’s definitely a big jump to college.
The skill level between high school and college football was apparent from the start. College players were bigger than Andrews was used to and much harder to block. Andrews hadn’t had competition like that in a long time.
Once camp started in the summer, it was football three times a day every day. Andrews would wake up, shower, eat, play football and repeat. He would also shower, eat and play football in a classroom. It was required that everyone gives full effort all the time. Practices were even longer and more intensive.
The extreme football schedule was very hectic, according to Andrews.
“I couldn’t find my earbuds for three whole weeks because I didn’t have time to sit down and listen to music or anything like that,” Andrews said. “I didn’t even unpack my clothes.”
While the weeks on camps were a very busy time for Andrews, it also came with some benefits. He was able to explore the campus before classes and get the lay of the land around campus. This also gave Andrews some time to form bonds with his new teammates.
“We’re all still great friends and I feel like it built a better bond seeing them every single day, eating meals with them, going to practice, stuff like that,” Andrews said. “I feel like I know the guys I play with now just as good as the guys I played with in high school for four straight years.”
This bond with teammates also extended to the classroom, where Andrews often had a fellow football player in each class to study and do homework with. While football did help Andrews to make friends and acclimate to this unfamiliar environment that he had been thrust into, it is extremely time-consuming. The balance between school and football can often be overbearing on incoming students.
“It is rough. I’m so far behind on my shows,” Andrews said. “It’s a balance, you have to [fake] your way through everything. Basically, you just have to become the master of [faking it] and finding the fastest way to do the minimum amount of work possible.”
That often involves cramming in schoolwork whenever possible, be it early mornings, between classes or even right before football.
“I would walk to the field house, to the locker room, sit down there,” Andrews said. “There was a table and some benches, open up my laptop and that’s when I did homework, right before practice.”
That was commonplace for him but not his anecdotal story. That would be the time he typed a full essay before a football game, in the locker room.
“I’m sitting there in my game pants, and my compression shirt and my shoulder pads next to me, typing away an eight-page essay,” Andrews said. “And people are like ‘What the hell is this guy doing?’ But there’s other people around me doing the exact same thing. So, every chance you get you just have to just be prepared to start doing work.”
A very important lesson that Andrews learned early on was the importance of sleep. He says that the true balance is not only between football and school but between football, school and sleep. This was to ensure that his body was properly fueled and ready for everything.
“I would make sure I always had eight hours of sleep every night. You have to take care of yourself first before you take care of school,” Andrews said. “If you take care of yourself mentally and physically, you’ll be able to get through the schoolwork faster than you think.”
This philosophy seemed to pay off, as Andrews was able to finish his first semester strong academically, as well as being able to play in a football game as a freshman.
“I did football and college, and I ended up coming out with a really good GPA. You can’t make an excuse by saying you’re a bad student if all you’re doing is being a student,” Andrews said. “If you’re not putting in the work, then you deserve the bad grade.”