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ISSUE 119 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/23/2005

Injury inspires rebirth for Andrade

By Joel Stjernholm
Staff Writer

Friday, September 23, 2005

There’s an old adage: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” It’s a saying that St. Olaf running back Bobby Andrade ‘07 has truly taken to heart.

Standing a mere 5’4,” Andrade is a full nine inches shorter than most of the linemen who block for him. By all accounts, he is too small to play college football.

Perhaps it is fitting that a player of Andrade’s stature, which evokes comparisons to the legendary Notre Dame Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (subject of the 1993 film), is an avid Notre Dame fan. And just like Rudy, Andrade’s journey through football – and life, for that matter – have required him to lean heavily upon faith.

Andrade excelled at football from a young age due in large part to frequent encouragement from his parents. He also received great support from a rather unlikely source: then-Notre Dame head football coach Bob Davies.

“I used to write him all the time, and he would write back, too,” Andrade said. “Every time I got a letter from him, it was really encouraging, and I would practice that much harder, and be that much tougher. It helped me have more faith in my abilities.”

Andrade’s faith extended beyond his life on the football field and took root in church, as well. Attending church weekly with his mother and grandmother when he was young, Andrade developed a strong sense of faith and spirituality.

“My mom and dad are both really strong Christians, just trying to do what’s right and live by the Bible,” Andrade said. “They were always positive and always encouraging in all aspects of my life.”

In addition to paying spiritual dividends, that faith and encouragement helped Andrade to overcome his lack of size and realize his potential. During a tremendous senior year at Bell Gardens High School in California, Andrade rushed for 36 touchdowns, earning the honor of LA Times Redzone Player of the Year.

However, Andrade found that most Division I football programs were not interested in recruiting him.

“San Jose State looked at me, but in the end they went with another running back,” Andrade said. “Even with what I did my senior year, they weren’t interested. I was even MVP at the USC football camp, where I competed against guys who are playing for USC now, but it didn’t matter.”

With no Division I scholarship offers, Andrade turned to Division III and St. Olaf.

Upon arriving at St. Olaf, Andrade found immediate football success, earning All-MIAC honors as a first year by rushing 195 times for 760 yards and three touchdowns.

However, Andrade’s successes did not extend to the classroom, where his performance was lackluster.

“In high school I was always on the honor roll and I never partied,” Andrade said. “But in college it was different. There were always parties, every weekend. I stopped going to church for a while. I wasn’t disciplined . . . I wasn’t focused.”

At the end of the year, Andrade found himself on academic probation, uncertain whether or not he would be permitted to return to St. Olaf. Again, he received encouragement from his parents.

“My mom said it was up to me; she knew I had to want to be here [to be successful],” Andrade said. “My dad wanted me to go back. He told me how great of an opportunity it was to be here, and he really pushed me to write an appeal to the school and to go back.”

Still unsure whether or not he wanted to be back at college, Andrade wrote the appeal, and waited for the college’s reply.

“I said to myself, ‘If I get in, I get in, and if not, I guess I’ll go from there,” Andrade said.

In addition to crediting his parents for their positive encouragement, Andrade praised head coach Chris Meidt for helping him through the appeal process.

“I know that Coach Meidt busted his butt for me,” Andrade said. “He really had faith in me, and I remember that. That means a lot. I don’t ever take that for granted.”

Administrators permitted Andrade to return, but he remained on probation; bad grades would mean the end of Andrade’s collegiate career.

Andrade returned to school in 2004 excited for the football season and anxious to prove himself in the classroom. However, that excitement was short-lived; Andrade sustained a season-ending ACL injury early that season against Carleton. Moreover, the NCAA ruled that Andrade would not receive a medical redshirt, meaning he would lose a year of eligibility because of the injury.

“It was like, ‘What else is going to go wrong?’” Andrade said. “I was pissed, seriously, because I thought I had everything going in the right direction, and then I got injured.”

At the time, Andrade viewed his knee injury as another bad incident in a string of unfortunate events. In retrospect, however, Andrade views that injury as a true turning point in his life and blessing in disguise.

“It sounds weird, but when I got hurt, I realized that I wouldn’t play football forever,” Andrade said. “It put everything in perspective. I worked a lot harder in school and I started going to church again. I don’t take any of it for granted anymore.”

Andrade’s hard work paid off: He improved his grades and was taken off probation. Additionally, Andrade committed himself to a rigorous rehabilitation schedule, improving his knee strength and conditioning himself physically to return to football for the 2005 season.

Now in the thick of the season, Andrade has worked back into football slowly. He doesn’t carry the ball as frequently as before, and shares time in the backfield with fellow running back Jay Higgins ‘08. However, sharing time doesn’t bother Andrade at all.

“Higgins is a great player and a great guy,” Andrade said. “I just want to do what I can to help the team.”

As Andrade’s journey of physical, mental and spiritual recovery progresses, the Ole junior maintains his personal perspective about his career at St. Olaf.

“I want to be the best I can be and to contribute to the team,” Andrade said. “I just have to be patient and have faith. I need to work hard in school, and work hard in football. I can’t take it for granted. And I need to keep going to church, and pray. I really believe in that stuff. Some people don’t understand, but I truly believe.”

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