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Stow -- Mike Andy possesses an unsurpassed drive and indomitable energy that underscores a life of personal success and adventure that borders unbelievable.
He's traveled the world as a tour manager for legendary rock groups like AC/DC, U2 and Motley Crue, arguably mastered the hospitality industry in the Cleveland area, and still reunites with his good friend and former Ohio State University head football coach Jim Tressel to reminisce about their college football days at the University of Akron.
Andy, 57, says strangers sometimes believe his stories are too fantastic to be true -- but they're as real as the awards, photos and concert memorabilia that fill his home.
"I would not trade one second of my entire career, whether academically, athletically or otherwise for anything in the world, and I would not have wanted anything different," he said.
Andy is among a group of seven athletes who will be inducted into the 38th class of the University of Akron Sports Hall of Fame during a Feb. 15 ceremony at the school's Martin Center Ballroom.
Ever humble, Andy -- a Zips walk-on and offensive tackle who eventually earned a full ride along with All-Mid-Continent Conference honors and an honorable mention in NCAA II All-America accolades by the Associated Press in 1978 -- attributes the prestigious distinction to the many influences in his life.
"This hall of fame induction has nothing to do with me," he said. "It has to do with the people who helped put me in that position and helped made me who I am."
THE BUILDING YEARS
Andy still remembers the first time he put on a set of football pads for two-a-day practices at Walsh Jesuit High School. Little did he know his shoulder pads were on backward and his leg pads were meant to fit inside pockets in his football pants.
He advanced a long way before walking on at the University of Akron in May 1974 -- a year after he graduated high school -- after "All City Sid" Laria passed film of his high school football work on to Zips coaches.
"When I had this opportunity, man, I was tickled pink," said Andy, who confesses a love of the "togetherness" a football team fosters.
"He didn't have a lot of skills and wasn't overly coordinated when I met him," said Tom Flaherty, Andy's line coach through his five-year tenure with the Zips. "He looked a little rough at first, but I could see his potential . . . He started at the lowest level and worked and worked until he worked himself into the starting lineup."
Andy spent three years on the team lifting, practicing and developing before his 1974 season was redshirted, giving him 1977 and 1978 to start at offensive tackle.
Andy fondly remembers the first time he dressed for a Zips game in 1976. Even though he wasn't a starter yet, the moment symbolized one of many "brass rings" he constantly reached for.
At nearly 6-and-a-half feet tall and 260 pounds, Andy was a bruiser -- but he's never been one to stifle his energy or emotions.
"I'm sitting there putting on that blue and gold, and the things were so blue and so gold, I'll tell ya, I cried," he said. "I was so overwhelmed and so happy, I was just thinking, 'This is unbelievable.'"
He paid for school all by himself, originally working an asphalt job to pay for his first apartment. He eventually earned financial assistance -- he received money for books, tuition, and food. Prior to all that, he was given a place to live at the cinder-block fieldhouse and Buchtel Field.
A FUTURE HALL OF FAMER
Tressel -- now the vice president of strategic engagement for the University of Akron -- was one of Andy's roommates at the time. While only two years older than Andy, Tressel had landed a job on the football team's coaching staff as a graduate assistant, working with specialty positions.
Tressel still refers to Andy as "Shamu," his nickname that has stuck with him to this very day.
"'Mu was just one of the guys. He was kind of a comedian and the life of the party. He was the guy that got everyone together," said Tressel, noting how Andy's positive mental attitude was incredibly infectious. "He is a fun-loving guy who cared deeply for his teammates and his friends."
Tressel noted how Andy's path from walk-on to full-ride was unique and a symbol of his hard work and dedication.
"I didn't want a full ride because of the things it taught me being a walk-on helped me succeed after that [in life]," Andy said.
"Nothing was ever easy for him. Nothing was ever handed to him. But that was OK because he wanted to earn every single thing that would come his way," Tressel said. "It meant the most for him to succeed on behalf of his teammates."
Andy still has the wood-handled, leather jump rope Tressel gave him in the '70s to work on agility so he could be quick off the snap if not fast in general.
"I don't know everyone that's in the Hall of Fame," said Tressel, "but I can promise you there's no one in there that this will mean more to than it does to Mike."
"I went from walk-on with nothing to a full-ride," said Andy. "I'd accomplished something that I always wanted to accomplish, but never thought I would."
Ironically, Andy has never owned a football of his own. He said he loves his coaches, teammates and what football taught him more than the sport itself.
"I loved the camaraderie, the unity, the fact that everything was so regimented, the discipline and accountability to not just your teammates and your team, but yourself," said Andy. "I didn't want to screw up because I didn't want to disappoint the coaches and teammates, but I sure as hell didn't want to disappoint myself."
LIFE AFTER FOOTBALL
Andy decided not to pursue an NFL career after his time with the Zips.
Rather, he finished his education at UA, earning a bachelor's degree in both food service management and technical education in food service management. A self-confessed lover of food who dabbled in cooking at just 4 years old, Andy said it had been his dream to own a restaurant.
Andy also took on jobs as a bouncer for various bars and clubs to earn extra money during his time at UA.
He went on to work the hotel circuit around Cleveland after college when Bob Wein -- a security manager who worked with Andy and toured with Bruce Springsteen among other notable groups and musicians -- gave Andy the chance to handle security for AC/DC.
Andy went on to tour the world with popular arena bands for 11 straight years.
Andy said football influenced him throughout his entire life. He recalls when he was the tour manager for AC/DC during the band's 1991 show in Salt Lake City, Utah where three fans died after being trampled to death.
"That was a nightmare," said Andy. "When you have an experience like that, you resort back to something you handled earlier in life."
When Andy pulled a dead girl out of the crowd at the 1991 concert, to cope, he fell back to the day his friend and Zips teammate and tight end Chris Angeloff died during a game in 1975 of a massive heart attack. He remembers how his coach, Jim Dennison, broke the news to the team -- which didn't know Angeloff had died when he was taken off the field -- in tears.
The positive mental attitude Andy kept with him his entire life also helped him cope with the loss of his mother last year, and his eventual diagnosis with the autoimmune disorder Lupus.
Just like in football, a person may lose the game or take a big hit, "but the sun will still come up tomorrow," he said, "and people need to remember that."
He also thanks the people who have supported him throughout life's hard times -- just like how his teammates and coaches supported him during his time with the Zips -- including his physician, Dr. Richard Henkel, his half-sister, Kay DeBolt, and his two sons, Mike and Tyler.
Just as he succeeded in sports, reaching ever further for his next "brass ring," his next goal is to beat his illness each and every day.
Andy chooses to work past life's struggles and focus on each day and remember the people who made him a success.
"If I died today, I've had an unbelievable life," he said, "and I'm so happy for it and so happy for the people who helped make that happen."
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I've read and reread your article on Mike Andy and sent it to numerous friends and family.
So sorry you were unable to make the the AU Sports Hall of Fame induction on 15 February. The presentations and whole evening were super as you may have heard. Mike has had nothing but positive responses since your article and the induction.
Thanks so very much for your excellent capture of Mike's story.
P.S. Mike's sister, Brenda came from Texas for the induction. We have spoken hours on the phone since last February and finally got to meet! She stayed with me during her visit and we three had a wonderful visit.