In the NFL, 53-man roster decisions can come back to haunt a team.
For the Tennessee Titans, cutting running back Antonio Andrews could be one of the biggest mistakes the team has made in a long time.
Andrews grew up just over an hour from Nashville in Fort Campbell, KY where he was named Mr. Football for Kentucky during his senior year of high school in 2009. Receiving scholarship offers from multiple schools and initially committing to play for the Air Force Academy, he finally decided to stay closer to home and play his college football in the Sun Belt Conference at Western Kentucky, just over 70 miles from Fort Campbell.
Once given first-team carries at WKU, Andrews wasted no time impressing anyone who watched him play. Over his first two years with the Hilltoppers, he wasn’t given many opportunities to shine in the running game, but starting during the 2012 college football season, Andrews began turning heads with his elite athleticism.
In 2012 during his junior season, Andrews finished with 3,161 all-purpose yards, leading all teams in the FBS as well as finishing with the second highest total ever behind Barry Sanders. In both his junior and senior seasons he rushed for over 1,600 yards and 11 and 16 touchdowns, respectively.
On top of his rushing statistics during his two marquee seasons with WKU, Andrews caught for a total of 910 yards and 78 receptions, as well as returned both kickoffs and punts for a total of 1,412 yards. These are hugely impressive statistics for a 5-foot-10 running back known for his strength more than his speed.
But the problem with playing at a small school in one of the FBS’s weaker conferences is that extremely talented players, even with that amount of collegiate success, often get overlooked in the NFL Draft.
Predicted to go in the sixth or seventh round, Andrews found himself without a team after the last name was called on the final day of the draft. However, what many would see as a disappointment, Andrews saw as an opportunity.
Andrews, even before the draft, had stated that he had always wanted to play for the Titans. The Titans were located just under an hour from where he grew up, and it’s the dream of many young athletes to play for their local team. As would be expected, Andrews and the Titans announced a deal just a few hours after the end of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, the Titans have several running backs and wide receivers competing for the last few places on the roster, meaning that it is very likely, and nearly certain, that Andrews will be, unfortunately, left off of the final 53-man roster barring an injury.
The worst part about the potential loss of Andrews is that Tennessee has had to drop talented young players before. The two players that recently come to mind for Tennessee are former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and current Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount and current Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle. Both players have made big plays for their teams through the course of the season, and both players could have aided the Titans heavily over the course of the past few seasons.
So, with just under a week before roster 53-man roster decisions are made, the Titans are once again left with the difficult decision of who to keep and who to let go. Andrews, despite a very good preseason, is very likely to be left on the outside of the 53-man roster, just because of the veteran depth that the Titans have at the running back position.
Tennessee may have the upper hand on signing Andrews to the now 10-man practice squad based on his dream of being a Titan, but it’s very likely that a team in desperate need of a third running back comes calling and Andrews leaves. It’s one thing to pursue a dream, and another to hinder growth as a player by declining offers to make the roster on another team.
The Titans must try anything and everything possible to try and retain this budding young talent out of Western Kentucky, because, if they don’t, Tennessee could watch a potential member of the team have a huge career somewhere else.