BY JEFF FALK
Andrew Hurst is a self-made football player, a self-made linebacker. That certainly bodes well for his future as a human being and a man.
Unlike just about everyone on the Lebanon Valley College squad, Hurst was not recruited to play Division Three football. Following a not particularly-distinguished scholastic career at nearby Annville-Cleona, Hurst wasn’t even sure he wanted to play football in college.
Now here it is five years later and Hurst is sure glad he did. A senior outside linebacker, Hurst is one of the main cogs in a pretty good Lebanon Valley defense. And to say he’s enjoying the ride he and the 5-2 Flying Dutchmen are currently on would be an understatement.
So exactly how did he get to where he is today? Hard work, determination and perseverance.
“I’m a completely different player than I was in high school,” said Hurst. “In my first year, I discovered the main difference between high school and college is the speed of the game. When I first stepped on the field, it caught be surprise.
“I kept working out, lifting, running and you get used to the game speed,” Hurst continued. “We have a great coaching staff that helps you become a good football player. Every practice in college is filmed. It’s a good coaching moment when you can sit down with a coach and critique your play.”
Much of Hurst’s early career at Lebanon Valley was lost to injury. But he stuck with it, and last season as a junior played in every game, starting the last four at inside linebacker.
This season he was moved to outside linebacker and performed admirably as a starter.
“I thought I was a good player in high school, but I didn’t get recruited to play anywhere,” said Hurst. “I knew I could play at this level, so I talked to the (LVC) coaching staff. High school-wise, I thought I had an all right career. But I didn’t expect to play in college.
“I’ve been playing football since I was six,” added Hurst. “That first year I came to college and didn’t play and I missed it. All of my friends here were football players. And a bunch of my friends I played against in high school. I decided to go out for the team and play.”
“It’s been two things for Andrew,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos. “He had a strong love of the game and he’s worked very hard. He’s very athletic and worked very hard in the weight room, and he’s progressed. He’s paid his dues. Each year he’s improved. Now he’s a mainstay on our defense.”
Position-wise, Hurst is sort of a ‘tweener’. He doesn’t really have a main responsiblity, he has two – the rush and the air.
But relying on his reads, experience and football instincts, Hurst has registered 26 total tackles, 15 solos and 11 assists. He’s also tied for the team lead with two sacks.
“Defensive-wise, DBs, they’ve got to worry about the pass,” explained Hurst. “Defensive linemen and inside linebackers, they’re more worried about the run. At outside linebacker, you’ve got the best of both worlds. You have to be able to play in space. It takes experience, but you’ve just got to be a football player. You’ve got to have instincts.”
“What’s tough is he’s got to defend the run and pass,” said Monos. “We talk about taking an edge and turning the runner back into our pursuit. But he also has to cover the back out of the backfield. That position is not an easy position because we ask him to do so much.”
Certain leadership responsiblities on the team have fallen to Hurst. Instead of shirking them, he has embraced them with open arms.
“I’m a fifth-year senior,” said Hurst. “I’m 22 and I think some of the guys look to me as the old guy on the team. I’ve been around longer than anyone. I try to be a leader. I try to motivate guys and keep them positive.
“I’m one of the only kids who wasn’t recruited,” Hurst added. “To be a starter and a leader on the team, I grateful where I am now.”
Scholastically, where Hurst is right now is gaining valuable work experience in the real world. The elementary and special education major has been student teaching in the Lebanon school district, at Henry Houck and Harding elementaries.
“As a team, we expected it,” said Hurst of LVC’s current 5-2 mark. “Everybody outside the team didn’t expect it. We were picked to finish sixth in the conference (Middle Atlantic) and we just kept that on our minds. We play and coach with a chip on our shoulders.
“We’re on a roll right now,” Hurst continued. “We have great players on offense and great players on defense. We just have a solid team. I’m loving the season.”