Desert Mountain's Mark Andrews is Big Schools Football Player of the Year

Desert Mountain's Mark Andrews is Big Schools Football Player of the Year

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Desert Mountain's Mark Andrews is Big Schools Football Player of the Year

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Mark Andrews dwarfs most of the defensive backs who try to take him on. At a chiseled 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, once he gets the ball, the Scottsdale Desert Mountain junior wide receiver either powers over or runs past tacklers en route to the end zone.

Nobody would guess he relies on an insulin pump to keep himself alive, balancing doses by giving himself shots.

At age 9, he was diagnosed with Type I juvenile diabetes.

Andrews inserts a needle through a catheter that is placed under his skin in his lower hip area, about the only place on his body that has fat stored. With his pancreas unable to produce insulin, the insulin he needs to survive is pumped into him.

Every day he is checking his blood glucose levels. The school’s athletic trainer texts readings to Andrews’ parents.

Earlier this basketball season, Andrews, a power forward on the team, had an episode in which the family had to call 911, his mother Martha said.

“He was unresponsive,” Martha Andrews said. “He got real belligerent. And then he fell on the ground, covered his mouth and we couldn’t get any sugar in him.

“He’s not off the pump for nearly as long as he is for football.”

Andrews, an honors student, doesn’t see this as a hindrance, but rather he uses his condition as motivation to show anything is possible.

He dominated first on soccer fields and on basketball courts before high school. Once he got to Desert Mountain, Andrews found football, discovered how good he was at it, and made it his No. 1 passion.

“It definitely gives me a little chip on my shoulder,” Andrews said of the diabetes. “It’s something that makes me work harder, to show people that you can still do things, even if you’re diabetic. There are no limitations.”

The shots have become second-nature, as have the prolific receiving performances.

This season, with fellow junior Kyle Allen throwing the ball, Andrews caught 81 passes for 1,494 yards and 21 touchdowns, helping Desert Mountain turn around a 4-6 season into a 9-3, Division I-quarterfinal year. His receiving yardage passed Eric Drage’s 1,492, which ranked No. 1 in Class 5A as all-time best for a season in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s archives. Drage was Player of the Year in 1988 at Tucson Santa Rita.

Andrews is azcentral sports’ Big Schools (Divisions I through III) Football Player of the Year this season.

He has been a coach’s dream for Tony Tabor, who suffered through an 0-10 season in 2010, when Andrews was tearing it up so much at the freshman level that word about him spread rapidly throughout the state.

“He’s not arrogant,” Tabor said. “He never gets in trouble. He makes good grades. I almost have to pinch myself.”

Andrews, whose blood sugar levels are well-monitored by Desert Mountain trainers, quickly got on the fast track in college recruiting after a sophomore season in which he caught 58 passes for 1,058 yards and 10 scores, giving Desert Mountain four more wins than it had the previous season.

He picked up eight offers in the spring and summer, including from Arizona, Arizona State, Oklahoma, and Ohio State. His brother and No. 1 fan, Jack, six years older, is a medical student at Oklahoma.

Notre Dame, which recently offered him a scholarship, already has visited him three times, making him a top 2014 target. He has been compared to Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, who picked up the John Mackey Award for being the nation’s top tight end this college season. Andrews also receives comparison to New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

But, at Desert Mountain, he lines up wide and at times in the backfield.

“He saw every coverage imaginable,” Tabor said.

His extensive club soccer background showed up not only in his ability to make big plays after catches, but the way he punished the football on kickoffs.

Tabor said that 45 of Andrews’ 72 kickoffs sailed into the end zone for touchbacks. And this was his first year kicking off.

“Mark Andrews never played a down of football in his life until he showed up here,” Tabor said. “Our receivers coach has done a phenomenal job with him. He’s been coached up. But you don’t just make a Mark Andrews.”

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