Archdeacon: Dad’s wish comes true for new UD football coach

He had just visited an ailing friend at the hospital and was coming back home. He lived out in the country and about a mile from his house he saw all the flashing lights and commotion at the intersection of Mishawaka Road and County Road III near Elkhart, Indiana.

“I had a really recognizable car back then,” said Trevor Andrews, who was just 16 on that Sunday afternoon in March of 1992. “I drove a ‘67 Cutlass convertible and it was red.

“My uncle saw me coming and he flashed his lights. I pulled over and he was like: ‘There’s been an accident. You need to go to the hospital now!”

Andrews turned around and hurried back to Elkhart General Hospital.

“When we got there, my mom and sister were in surgery,” he recalled quietly, his voice momentarily trailing off. “But my dad…my dad didn’t make it.”

His father, 44-year-old Jim Andrews, was the longtime, much-respected football coach at NorthWood High in Nappanee, Ind. Once he had starred at Nappanee High and when he died he was Trevor’s coach and soon would have coached his younger son, Nate, as well.

That Sunday afternoon, Jim, his wife Sheri and daughter Kelli, then a sixth grader, were on their way back from church when their car was struck in the driver’s side by another vehicle driven by a young woman.

“All of a sudden your world is like ‘BOOM!’” Trevor said. “It just explodes.”

This is the story of how the worst day in Trevor Andrews’ life has — after much pain and grit and “it takes a village” support — led to one of the best.

It’s how he became the new University of Dayton football coach.

The two events, 30 years apart, are connected, but actually the story begins in the late 1960s when Jim Andrews was a hard-nosed fullback at Manchester College in Indiana and shared the Spartans’ backfield with a young quarterback from Milton-Union — Mike Kelly — who later would become a College Football Hall of Fame coach at UD and now serves as an assistant athletic director at the school.

Before his death Jim had been the NorthWood head coach 20 years, won 150 games, had two teams finish as state runners-up and was named district coach of the year seven times.

“My dad wasn’t just a superhero to me and a superhero to everybody in our house, he was a superhero at our school, our church and throughout the community,” said Nate Andrews, who was in the eighth grade when his dad died and now is the successful NorthWood head coach himself.

As he sat in his Frericks Center office the other day, Trevor took a few minutes to go back to those difficult days past:

“Our school had maybe 750 students at the time, but like a lot of schools in Indiana, our gym was big. It seated 4,000. They had the funeral there and the place was full.

“I remember they drove my mom over in an ambulance and brought her in in a hospital bed.

“I was numb, but the town I grew up in was very close knit and when the say ‘it takes a village’ that’s just how they were to all of us.

“I tried to be there for my brother and sister, too, and I wanted my mom to be happy.

“Whether I was ready or not, I felt I had to be the man of the house, but I was in a daze for a couple of months myself.”

Nate remembered it a little differently.

“We’re believers and I’ll tell you, he had a strength within him, there’s no doubt,” he said as his voice began to waiver with welling emotions from the past. “You saw it in his eyes. You felt it coming from his heart. There was an inner presence, a power that overtook him and he guided me

“I was just 14 and I don’t know if I would have made it through that without him.”

The high school named the football field Jim Andrews Field and next to it erected a memorial with his picture on it.

Next door rival, Bremen High School, established the Coach Jim Andrews Memorial traveling trophy given to winner of Northwood-Bremen game each year.

The South Bend Tribune named its Coach of the Year award after him and the Elkhart Truth gives out an annual achievement award in his honor. And the Nappanee Chamber of Commerce honors an annual recipient with the Jim Andrews “Educator of the Year” Award.

But when it comes to sports achievement and character, the best tributes were the successes of Trevor and Nate.

Both were multi-sport standouts at NorthWood and especially shined in wrestling and football.

Nate played football at Ball State before launching his coaching career.

Trevor, who turned down Big Ten scholarship offers to wrestle and football invites to Indiana State and other schools, came to the University of Dayton, where he lettered three years as a defensive back in the mid-1990s.

After 24 years as a college assistant coach, he took over the UD job in December when Rick Chamberlin retired.

In doing so, he amplified a wish his dad had verbalized just a year or so before his death.

The ‘bull’ and the ‘rookie’

“His nickname was Bull,” Mike Kelly said of his Manchester College backfield mate, Jim Andrews. “He was a year older than I was and he was our captain.

“He was just an old, throwback fullback and he was just tough as nails. He lined up in the I formation and he was like a bull.”

Kelly said Andrews gave him his college nickname:

“We had about six freshmen quarterbacks and I don’t know, maybe I was a little cocky, a little obnoxious, but I thought I was pretty good.

“But Bull said, ‘You’re nothin’ but a rookie!’

“That stuck with me a long, long time, all the way through college and…well…I think if I ran into any of my old teammates today, they’d still call me “Rookie.”

After graduation Andrews and Kelly went off on their own careers,

Kelly coached at the high school level five seasons and was an assistant at Hanover College and then on Rick Carter’s staff at UD. He became the head coach in 1981, a tenure that lasted 27 seasons and produced a 246-54-1 record. His .819 winning percentage ranks among the Top 25 winningest percentages in the history of college coaches.

Back home at NorthWood High, Jim Andrews ended up with a rich mix of football and fatherhood.

“As a kid you think your dad can walk on water,” Trevor said. “My dad might as well have been Nick Saban to me. I was very proud of him and the fact that he was the head coach at my high school.”

Nate felt the same:

“Trevor and I would tag along with dad wherever he went. And when Dad would leave early in the morning and not wake us, we’d ride our bicycles four miles to practice. When we were in grade school we’d take the bus straight to the high school for practice because we wanted to be with Dad and the guys.”

Trevor talked of their passion and persistence: “I’ve missed two practices, probably, since I was eight years old. And the only reason I missed them was for the birth of two of my children.”

Once in high school, the boys became stars in their own right.

“Just a year or so before Jim died, he told me, ‘I sure hope one of my boys gets a chance to play for you,’” Kelly recalled the other day. “He hoped one of his sons would get a chance to come to UD. I never, ever forgot that.”

The fall after his father died, Trevor was a junior and became the starting quarterback on the team now coached by Rich Dodson, their dad’s longtime assistant.

He said he felt self-imposed pressure early on, but eventually learned to trust his teammates.

And his senior year — with Nate now a sophomore playing on the varsity, too — that trust led unprecedented triumph. The Panthers were 13-0 going into the 1993 state title game against Indianapolis Roncolli, which edged them, 14-12.

“One of the most memorable moments for me, though, happened in the state semifinal,” Nate said. “I was a young guy and my brother was the team captain and what he did was pretty special. We’ve still got a video of it.

“I happened to make a play on defense and returned an interception for a touchdown that really sealed the game. Right after the play, my brother called over a TV cameraman on the sideline and said, ‘Put me on camera!’

“And when the guy did, Trevor blurted out: ‘That!... was my little brother!”

Nate’s emotions bubbled up again, but finally he explained:

“I still get choked up about that. All I ever wanted to do was please my big brother.”

Although he had other scholarship and walk-on offers, Trevor visited UD and spent part of an afternoon talking to Kelly. That bond, coupled with the Flyers’ winning tradition, the education he could get here and the feel of the campus, all sold him on UD, he said:

“I don’t think I realized it back then, but there were probably some underlying issues with me and it felt comfortable to know Coach Kelly and my dad had had that experience together. Maybe that’s why I really wanted to come here.”

That said, Kelly wanted one thing to be clear when we spoke the other day: Trevor Andrews didn’t get a roster spot as a gift because of is late dad:

“That would have been unfair to him and the program,” Kelly said. “He earned everything he got.”

Trevor lettered three years at UD and was part of the Flyers’ 1996 team that went 11-0.

He talked about the “wonderful time” he had here and that includes his time living with a few other football players and non-players — including his pal, quarterback Kevin Johns, now the offensive coordinator at Duke — at 239 Kiefaber Street in the old Student Ghetto.

“I got into college coaching because of my experience here a Dayton,” he said. “I wanted to help other young men have a similar experience to the one I did.

After serving as a graduate assistant at Illinois Wesleyan and one season as an assistant at Randolf-Macon, he joined the William & Mary staff, stayed there 18 seasons, and rose to defensive coordinator and associate head coach.

The past four seasons he was the linebackers coach at Western Michigan.

Then came the call from UD athletics director Neil Sullivan.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

‘He’s a perfect fit’

Every morning — all these years later — Mike Kelly tugs on a reminder of Jim.

“I exercise every day and I still use one of those, big thick rubber bands where they stretch (and provide resistance),” he said. “Jim and I were at a clinic maybe 40 years ago and I swear he was one of the first coaches in America to use those bands.

“I said, ‘That’s genius.’

“And he said, ‘You watch, in a few years this will really take off. Everybody will be using them.’

“He gave me one and I still use it. And he was right. I still see other people with them in gyms now.”

Jim Andrews was right on another count, too: having his son link up with Kelly.

“He’s been my biggest mentor,” Trevor said. “There probably hasn’t been a major life decision I’ve made where I have not referred to Mike Kelly.

He said his tenure at William & Mary — where Jimmye Laycock was the successful head coach for 39 seasons — was good preparation for the UD job:

“There are a lot of similarities from the size of the school and the emphasis on academics to the type of student athlete you coach there.”

When Chamberlin retired, Kelly said Sullivan wanted to hire someone who would “keep those traditions, those deep roots in the program. He wanted to keep those bloodlines flowing.”

Kelly said he pretty much stayed out of the hiring process and that, once again, Trevor Andrews rose on his own merit.

“He’s a perfect fit,” Kelly said.

In the two months since he’s been here, Trevor said he had to hire a staff and “cram a year’s worth of recruiting into a month.”

Four days ago, he announced the signing of 37 freshmen for the 2023 season.

Now he needs to address life off the field.

The other morning when we spoke, he said he’d just sold his home in Michigan. His wife, Danielle, and their four young children haven’t moved down yet — they still need to find a house — and in his office, almost of his belongings are still stored in plastic tubs stacked up in the corner.

One thing though he did unpack and it surprised him when he put it on display at his introductory press conference:

“I wasn’t nervous about it, but then all of a sudden I got up and started talking about Rick Chamberlin and Mike Kelly and I got choked up. I didn’t anticipate that happening at all, but those guys mean so much to me.”

And once again, Jim Andrews’ wish to have a son come to Dayton was fulfilled.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

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