Andrews paints pretty picture for Bengals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 8, 2004

CINCINNATI - Stacy Andrews fell in love with drawing long before football.

He played in only five games in college, but the Cincinnati Bengals saw him as a sleeper in the draft, picked him in the fourth round and hope to make an NFL tackle out of the 342-pound art major from Mississippi.

''When I was real young, I loved to draw. I drew every day,'' Andrews said Saturday at the Bengals minicamp for rookies. ''It was just something I wanted to do.''

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In high school, Andrews was a track and basketball star but shunned football. He thought he could get a basketball scholarship, but got offers only from small schools. Mississippi offered him a track scholarship.

Before leaving Ole Miss, he had set three school records, including a discus throw of 188 feet, 5 inches. All the while, offensive line coach John Latina tried to get Andrews to try football.

''When I first got here five years ago - his first year - I walked into the weight room and naturally thought he was a football player,'' Latina said Saturday by phone from Oxford, Miss. ''I walked up to him, introduced myself and told him I thought I might be his line coach. He said he was there because of track.''

Not discouraged, Latina continued to work on Andrews.

''Every time I saw him, I'd tease him about coming out. He'd laugh,'' Latina said. ''Finally he stopped laughing and decided to come out.''

Andrews' younger brother, a two-time All-America tackle at Arkansas, helped influence his decision.

''I was talking to my brother Shawn about it and I finally just made up my mind to go ahead and do it,'' Andrews said.

He played as a backup in just five games, but that was enough to get scouts interested.

''He picked up the game very quickly,'' Latina said. ''He's a really fine athlete who has natural ability. If we had him another year, I think he'd be the first lineman picked in the draft.''

Andrews, 22, is a year older than Shawn, who was Philadelphia's first-round pick this year.

''His physical ability is first-round type physical ability. He has legitimate size, legitimate speed and is very, very strong and powerful,'' Latina said. ''The upside is he is very inexperienced - you know he's going to get so much better. I wouldn't be surprised if he became an All-Pro.''

At this point, the Bengals simply don't know if Andrews will be able to play in the NFL. Latina thinks he can because he learned the college game so quickly.

''We had a very complex system with Eli Manning at quarterback,'' Latina said. ''We do a little bit of everything. That's not easy for anybody, but he (Andrews) picked it up fairly quick.''

Latina thinks Andrews' late start may actually be a plus.

''Sometimes when a kid has played 14-15 years, he's kind of burned out just when it's the most important time of his life,'' Latina said. ''Coming out so late was not easy to do. It took a lot of guts on his part. But it's paying off.''