Ashburn, VA (Jan. 30, 2016) – Offensive linemen rarely garner the recognition and respect they deserve. However, Stone Bridge senior Andrew Vastardis is a household name from a Bulldogs team that made a run all the way to the Virginia 5A state championship game.
Perhaps it is due to his big smile and warm personality, which may come as a surprise from a 6-foot-4, 310-pound lineman with a 4.55 GPA. Maybe it is due to the fact that he amassed double-digit scholarship offers.
The most likely answer is that he was the anchor of an offensive line that helped the single-wing attack of the Bulldogs rush for 3,633 yards in 2015, which equates to over 242 yards rushing per game.
“The linemen on our team have more chances to shine and be recognized because we’re on a run-heavy team,” Vastardis said.
Thanks to the ground and pound scheme of Coach Mickey Thompson and the Bulldogs, Vastardis had racked up collegiate offers from Air Force, Columbia, Davidson, Delaware, Fordham, Liberty, New Hampshire, Northwestern, ODU, Pennsylvania, Richmond and William & Mary.
Vastardis committed to Old Dominion back in June of 2015, where he was set to begin the next phase of his career, prior to the latest developments earlier this week on Jan. 26.
After Jim Harbaugh reached out to Vastardis for a chance to join the Michigan Wolverines as a preferred walk-on, the lineman jumped on the opportunity and backed out of his commitment to the Monarchs.
He broke the information via Twitter later that day.
College Announcement: pic.twitter.com/6u3N9AuFhK
— Andrew Vastardis (@AndrewV68) January 27, 2016
As an ODU commit for approximately seven months, Vastardis did have his heart set on life in Norfolk, an area he said was one of his favorite places to visit. He was also very fond of the Monarch coaching staff, saying they were well-rounded with equal emphasis on football and academics. He was excited to join a program on the rise.
“It was a huge relief to be able to call a place home,” said Vastardis about ODU before committing to Michigan. “It was tough to call the other schools and tell them I wasn’t going there, but I really fell in love with ODU.”
Although he was eager to be a Monarch, the chance to learn from Coach Harbaugh as a Wolverine was too attractive to disregard.
Not only did Vastardis draw the attention of college coaches, but the Washington Post took notice as well as he was named to the Post’s All-Met offensive team for his strong play this past season, and had the opportunity to participate in the All-Met photo shoot on Dec. 8. He will also participate in the Viva Loudoun All-Loudoun photo shoot on Jan. 31.
“Looking at the offensive players from the past years,” Vastardis said, “there are some big time names of guys who have gone on to have a lot of success, and it’s really cool to be in the same group as those guys, it’s an honor.”
After a standout prep career that culminated in an All-Met recognition and the chance to play at the next level, Vastardis gives a lot of credit to Thompson for his development as a player and a person.
“Coach Thompson has had a huge impact on me in my career and the whole community, he leads by example. I’m definitely going to stay close to him for a long time,” Vastardis said.
Despite the help of his coaches, Vastardis possesses many intangibles that can’t be taught. Skill and strength are certainly important for offensive linemen, but the one-on-one combat often comes down to that will to win.
“I feel like I am one of the best competitors, I love the game, I study it and I work really hard,” Vastardis said.
Admittedly, he has some areas that he will be working on between now and the fall when he reports to Ann Arbor, Mich. He says he hopes to lose some weight while gaining strength and muscle. He is also working on his speed, primarily his movement side-to-side while training with Coach Dave Mikel at Performance Edge.
“The college game is a lot more competitive and everyone has more skill,” Vastardis said, “I just want to compete with the best and then hopefully make it past that to the next level.”
Although history is against him in terms of achieving recognition as an offensive lineman in the next phase of his football journey, there is always a bright side that will never die.
“We may not get as much recognition as other positions,” Vastardis said, “but in the locker room after games, the team knows how important we are and all the good things we did.”
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Josh Apple
Special to Viva Loudoun
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