Athlete of the Week: Ben Andreas

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All his football career, Ben Andreas has been taking handoffs and catching passes.

But the Naperville Central junior was asked to do something new on Friday against Wheaton Warrenville South.

Already up 14-0 late in the first quarter, Redhawks coach Mike Stine called for Andreas to throw an option pass. He did, it went for 32 yards and a touchdown to Blake Butler and Naperville Central was on its way to a 24-13 DuPage Valley Conference win over last year’s Class 7A state runner-up.

For that and the other two touchdowns he scored earlier in the quarter — on a 60-yard punt return and a 38-yard pass from Jake Kolbe — Andreas is the Sun-Times Athlete of the Week.

“We actually put that play in [last] week,” Andreas said of his pass. “We’d never run it before, [but] since we had the momentum we tried to put it away early.”

Stine wasn’t hesitant to add a little trickery to the Redhawks’ playbook, knowing Andreas’ skill set.

“He’s been a pretty good weapon for us,” Stine said of the 5-9, 170-pounder. “He’s a kid, any time he touches it he’s got a chance to score.”

The option pass isn’t something everyone can pull off. “You’ve got to have a receiver who can throw it,” Stine said. “That’s an option read, to keep it and run it [or throw it].”

Nerves weren’t an issue. “I was pretty excited to do it,” Andreas said. “I felt they’d bite [on the run] if I got the ball, they did and Blake was wide open.”

The punt return also was something new for Andreas, who had been handling kickoffs while Jimmy Nashert was running back punts. But with Nashert sidelined by a slight concussion, Andreas got a chance to be back for punts. He took advantage, running one back 60 yards for Naperville Central’s first score.

He then caught the touchdown pass from fellow junior Kolbe, a teammate since sixth grade, before capping his big quarter with a touchdown toss of his own.

“We knew he was a great athlete,” Stine said. “He’s got great speed. … Some kids can make plays on the football field and he has the ability to do that.”

Andreas has eight touchdowns in the past three games, all wins for the Redhawks (3-2, 3-0 DuPage Valley). That’s something opposing defensive coordinators will take note of, which should open some opportunities for Andreas’ teammates.

“We’ve got two or three other receivers who are pretty good,” Stine said. “It’s nice to be able to have some different weapons. If I played us, that’s what I would do: double-cover him.”

Andreas is trying to do what a popular NFL receiver would do. “I like Wes Welker,” he said. “I’m [No.] 83 like he is. He’s not that fast, he’s not the biggest guy. He does whatever he can.”

Ditto for Andreas, even if it’s something he’s never been called on to do before.

Andreas is also a fan of DeSean Jackson: “He’s explosive, dynamic.”

Those also are words that figure to be used to describe Andreas, if they aren’t already.

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