There's an old cliche that the offensive line sets the tone for the entire football team's competitive toughness as the main cogs in the trenches.
Although there are exceptions, that tone is frequently set by the center position, or pivot, who brings the grittiness to an offense and the razor-focus from a mental standpoint. With the Patriots, we've seen that over the last eight seasons through team captain David Andrews.
Andrews is widely regarded as not only a leader but an enforcer and a player who brings the snarl to the trenches that New England covets, and it's an added bonus that he's naturally in an on-field leadership role as the primary communicator in the middle of the offensive line.
The hope is to have five David Andrew's across your offensive line in terms of competitive toughness, and that's likely what led head coach Bill Belichick to Jake Andrews. After starting three seasons on the interior at the University of Troy, New England selected Andrews in the fourth round (107th overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft.
"I remember him coming to camp when he was in high school with us at Troy. I was just feeling like we had a kid with competitive character and the grit you want on your team. He's got that mauler mentality," Troy head coach Jon Sumrall told Patriots.com. "He's the kind of kid you know what you're getting every day. You know what you're getting in Jake Andrews."
After being named second-team all-state as a High School senior, Andrews also went on to win a state championship in wrestling in Alabama. Many credit his wrestling background for his toughness and a general understanding of blocking rules of engagement in football.
"He was a phenomenal high school wrestler, a really physical, tough wrestler," Sumrall added. "He plays with good leverage. He's not the tallest guy, to begin with, anyways, but he plays low with good pads and good leverage, and physicality. He's not afraid of the contact part of the game. He thrives in that part of the game."
The 23-year-old from Millbrook, Alabama, started two seasons for the Trojans at right guard, but his move to center in his final season cemented his stock as a future pro. At that point, NFL teams began blowing up Sumrall's phone to discuss the All-Sun Belt First Teamer.
"There was a lot of interest. It's not really sexy to talk about a mid-round O-Lineman all the time. But he's one of those guys who declared for the draft, and maybe he was a little bit of an unknown. To be quite honest with you, a year ago nobody was asking me about him."
"Then in December, January, February, March, my phone was blowing up. It felt like every day somebody was calling about him. You knew there were going to be enough teams that valued his attributes and his intangibles on top of the way he plays that he was going to go to a place maybe a touch higher than originally projected," Sumrall explained.
Following a career where he started three seasons on Troy's offensive line, Andrews headed to Mobile to showcase his skills for NFL teams at the Senior Bowl. The Patriots have a long history of drafting Senior Bowlers, including selecting five Senior Bowl alums this year.
Ex-Patriots scout and current Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy also began to sense that NFL teams had Andrews on their radar as the 2022 season progressed. Nagy was attending the Auburn-Penn State matchup this fall when he started to hear scouts discussing Andrews.
"I talked to a couple guys that day that had just been through Troy, and they said, 'Jim, where do you guys have the center?' One of the guys I talked to was an over-the-top scout who had already been through there. Usually, at Sun Belt schools, you'll see area scouts first unless there's a really high-profile group of five player going into the year."
"But usually it's an area scout, and then to get more foot traffic through the school once you have to put a certain level of grade on a guy. So over the top guys, regional scouts, national scouts, and college directors started to go through Troy, so I knew there was some love for Jake around the league," Nagy said in a phone interview with Patriots.com.
Nagy believes that Andrews could be the successor to veteran David Andrews at center due to his skill set and experience with former Pats co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich. Popovich, who was on the Pats staff from 2016 to 2020, coached Troy's offensive line in 2022.
"It's a cool succession plan not just because of the names but because they're very similar players. He and David, when David was coming out of Georgia, are similar body types. They're both sawed off, shorter guys, which will be cool because now David can really teach Jake the tricks of the trade for a guy that has a similar body type."
"I would imagine that the mindset is that this is going to be our next starting center," Nagy said.
On Popovich's influence on the Patriots selecting Andrews in the fourth round, Nagy added, "One of our scouts talked to Coach Popovich on the field before one of the games. He even said I came from the Patriots. I was with the Patriots last year. And if I were still there, I would want this guy on the football team."
Sumrall also spoke about Popovich's role in the Patriots selecting Andrews, saying, "I think there's a natural connection there with the teaching progression and style of play that Pop taught here. It also happens there still in New England."
The last piece to the puzzle that makes Andrews a potential heir to the elder Andrews at center is his growing football IQ to handle the communicative responsibilities of the position. According to Sumrall, Andrews was quarterbacking Troy's offensive line in his senior season.
"He ran the show. He did the mic points, and he identified the front. He was very much in charge of getting our protection set, setting the mic point, identifying rotations, and talking about it from the roof down. I think he's got that sort of mindset."
Although the Patriots are in good hands with David Andrews captaining their offensive line at the pivot spot, the soon-to-be 31-year-old will not play forever. New England always looks to remain one step ahead at critical positions to avoid being left without a viable starting option.
The newest Andrews to join the organization might need to wait a few years for his turn, but the Patriots now have a succession plan at center.
Patriots Draft Pick Profile
Strengths: Stoutly-built center prospect with good natural leverage and ideal toughness for the position, wrestling background with great compete-level and finish, low center of gravity to leverage with upward strikes into engagements, decent snap-to-block timing, hands pack a punch with good accuracy to get them inside the frame, can get on a double-team and drive out DTs, three-year starter with improved IQ at center as the 2022 season progressed
Weaknesses: Foot speed and change of direction get challenged by twitchy interior rushers, doesn't get great arm or leg extension to protect his edges, below-average range for the position to block on the move, compact frame could be challenged by bigger DTs
Personal: As a Millbrook, Alabama native, Andrews remained in-state after a standout career for Stanhope Elmore High School as a football player and state champion wrestler. Andrews went on to start three seasons for Troy, logging starts at both guard and center, playing under former Patriots assistant coach Cole Popovich. Andrews accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, solidifying his stock as a day-three selection.
Comparable NFL player: David Andrews — it's easy to make this comparison given the last names. But there are some similarities. The Pats captain entered the league as an experienced but undersized prospect with the necessary grit and power to play the position. The rookie has similar qualities with his hard-nosed playing style, using his compact build and natural leverage as an advantage to create power.
What They're Saying…
Brandon Thorn/Bleacher Report: "Andrews has a squatty, compact build with middling athletic ability and length. But he's a proficient grappler once engaged with solid play strength and the right demeanor to compete for a roster spot at center in a multiple run scheme."
|Combine Percentile (among centers)
|Height: 6'2 3/4"
|Weight: 305 pounds
|40-Yard Dash: 5.15s
|Vertical Jump: 26"
|Broad Jump: 102"
|Short Shuttle: 4.73s
View photos of Patriots fourth round pick, center Jake Andrews in action at Troy.