ANNAPOLIS — Bruce Andrews‘ nickname, born in Navy’s wide receivers meeting room, is catching on a little more this month.
No wonder. “Big-Time Bruce,” a guy barely in the mix for snaps at the start of camp, is poised to play a role for the Midshipmen.
“You always see him make a big play,” senior Doug Furman said. “It fires up the group. It’s a good little motivator for everyone just to remind ourselves what we’re out here doing.”
Andrews, after all, is perhaps Navy’s most pleasant surprise more than two weeks into practice. The senior, who has never played and only dressed for a handful of games, considered walking away from the program just before his junior year.
Midshipmen are permitted to attend the academy for two years before committing to finish school and then serve in the military for five years. Andrews faced his “two-for-seven” deadline a little more than a year ago and wasn’t quite sure what to do.
The 6-foot, 189-pounder was one of four Hawaiians the football program recruited in his class. The other three went to the academy’s prep school, while Andrews came directly to Annapolis.
Life as a plebe meant lots of scout team work. But that existence continued for another year, and Andrews started to wonder whether he should remain at Navy.
“I’d have to say every week for the first three years,” Andrews said of how often he considered leaving. “I’m not going to lie.”
With a decision quickly approaching, he sat down with Danny O'Rourke to sort out his thoughts. O'Rourke, Navy’s wideouts coach the last three years before taking over the slotbacks this season, stressed how the lessons at the academy would serve Andrews well even if he never played a down.
“He was mentally ready to go …,” ORourke said. “It was a good talk. There were some questions. He just said, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking. I don’t know if it’s for me. And I said, ‘Why? [If it’s] just because you’re not playing, then that’s the wrong reason to leave.’ “
It didn’t pay off with immediate playing time. Yet with his final season looming, Andrews knew he needed to achieve greater consistency in order to finally play.
O'Rourke said Andrews‘ talent always was evident, though one dropped pass had a way of turning into two or three. A solid spring and a summer fully invested in improving set up a camp with seemingly a long reception each day that caught the eye of coach Ken Niumatalolo.
“He’s put so much work in,” Furman said. “Other guys get it a little sooner, and they kind of take it for granted. Bruce has been working the last three years, and the hard work is truly paying off for him.”
It’s not over yet, though. Navy won’t open the season until Sept. 3 against Delaware, so there still could be some personnel shuffling in the next two weeks. And Andrews, while impressive this month, isn’t listed as a starter.