By Dr. Ken


For our HELMET HUT readers and fans who can recall watching football from the 1950s through the early to mid-1970s, it is sad to note how many of those players have passed away recently. Every year, every month, and every week seems to bring another well-known name from the past to the obituary page. Although the statistics vary relative to whom is “making their case” or proving their argument, collegiate and professional football players either die at a relatively younger age than their non-participating peers or close to the average age of passing. We are reminded of the old adage from Mark Twain that “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” What we do know is that it is now epidemic, if only due to “old age” that our former heroes are leaving us as they enter their seventies, eighties, and nineties. We all have specific memories that have made the game of football meaningful thus some deaths are more important to us than others. Certainly the HELMET HUT staff at one time discussed presenting articles on the better known or successful players who were recently deceased before it immediately became obvious that one could not truly keep up with the mounting count nor do service to these excellent athletes.  

Description: Related image

On August 21, 2018 former Dallas Cowboys defensive end George Andrie died from congestive heart failure although his battle with CTE was well known among the NFL “concussion lawsuits.” Andrie was one of those players who caught my attention early in his professional career, in part due to his collegiate background that was a bit unusual. I had personal and “up-close” knowledge of the elimination of football at a major university and as literally traumatic as this type of event can be for current students and alumni, it is tragic for players and coaches. Hofstra College was founded in 1937 as a Long Island extension of Manhattan’s prestigious New York University and was established as an independent college in 1939. It primarily served as a commuter school for Long Island students but was diligent in building an excellent academic reputation into the mid-1960s. It was granted university status in 1963 and embarked on an expansion program that included the construction of numerous on-campus dormitories. Like many private universities that faced financial challenges during a time of student protest, Hofstra’s very public “campus takeovers” dictated a lowering of academic standards in order to remain financially solvent. This of course was vehemently denied by the school administration but even some of the Ivy League bastions were forced to do the same as parents were hesitant to send their children to what were deemed unsafe centers of student and social strife. What had once been considered “just a notch below Ivy League status” for Hofstra, leveled off to “just another college” in order to maintain a student enrollment that was usually in the 10,000 to 12,000 range.   

Description: Image result for dave cohen hofstra football

Whatever question Hofstra’s final head football coach Dave Cohen is asking an official could have been asked of the school administration when they dropped the program without notice in 2009 

Hofstra’s Flying Dutchmen began to play football when it was first granted independence from NYU in 1939 and playing at a variety of small school levels, they played well, competitively, and occasionally attracted national attention and developed professional level players. Their stadium and training facilities were on par with the upper tier Division III, II, and eventually Division 1AA which was their final stop. One of the young men who lifted weights in the author’s garage was David Cohen, an excellent though undersized defensive tackle at Long Island’s C.W. Post College, a long-time rival of Hofstra when they played at similar levels. Dave followed his collegiate career with a number of assistant coaching stops on the East Coast, earning many accolades as a defensive coordinator and recruiter. He became Hofstra’s head football coach in December of 2005 and was doing a fine job rebuilding the program when he was called to a meeting with the school President and Athletic Director on December 3, 2009. Believing he was notified in order to finalize a promised contract extension, he was instead informed that the university was terminating the football program due to financial considerations. Northeastern University had made a similar announcement only weeks before. I watched Dave and his dedicated staff do everything possible to assist players, both scholarship and walk-ons, to find other viable alternatives, making phone calls late into the night, meeting with parents and players, and doing what could be done to insure that their educations were protected. Those players at Hofstra on scholarship were allowed to complete their degrees with all expenses paid. However, trying to salvage dreams, finances, academic continuity, and restarting a college football career elsewhere literally from “square-one” was overwhelming for many players. The coaches did the same while protecting their players as much as possible and then uprooting their families. For many like Dave Cohen who went on to build award winning defenses at a number of schools and who is currently the Run Game Defensive Coordinator at Wake Forest, things worked out but the process is a nightmare. 

Description: Image result for george andrie marquette football

 George Andrie’s collegiate career ended in similar fashion. George was a tall, slim two-way end at Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, also starring in basketball and baseball. He was All League, All City, and All State on the gridiron and entertained athletic scholarships from a number of schools including Michigan State. With that local powerhouse knocking, the Spartans would have been a logical and understandable choice but George’s older brother Stan had been a stand-out at Marquette University and as George humorously but accurately stated in an interview years later, “I was a good Catholic boy and my mother wanted me to go to a good Catholic university so I chose Marquette.” The Milwaukee based school boasted high academic standing, a tradition of basketball, and a Warriors football team that generally remained competitive with its national base of other Catholic institutions. Although the mid-to late 1950s were a down time on the gridiron, the 1959 team boasted a number of good players who later had pro careers in Andrie, Karl Kassulke, Pete Hall, and John Sisk, Jr. 1959’s star running back Frank Mestnik was a first round draft choice of the 1960 Boston Patriots and won the starting fullback position after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals. Attendance had risen, the team’s prospects for 1961 looked promising relative to ‘60’s 3 – 6 record, and campus enthusiasm was high as the campaign concluded. The December 9, 1960 announcement that terminated the football and track and field programs came as a shock, even though in the twenty-five preceding years, twenty Catholic college football programs had been shuttered. These ranged from Portland and Niagra Universities to nationally ranked Fordham and the undefeated 1951 University of San Francisco program that had featured Hall of Fame members Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, and Bob St. Clair, as well as Dick Stanfil who had graduated the year before. Long time pro Ed Brown quarterbacked the team that also placed Joe Scudero and Red Stephens into the NFL. Burl Toler was injured in a post season all star game after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns which led to his outstanding officiating career.

When Marquette ended their program, Andrie, as an excellent athletic pass receiving tight end and defensive end, had a number of offers to consider for his senior football season and academic work. At 6’6” he was considered the tallest back in the country as he would often move to a slotback position on offense. He visited Tulsa, decided to stay and was doing well on the field but noted that “three weeks into the semester he still had not been assigned to any classes.” Being serious about attaining his degree and having met a young woman on the Marquette campus who had garnered his affections, one who became his future wife of course, he hurried back to Milwaukee to accept an offer to have his tuition paid but without the room-and-board, books, and other benefits of his former athletic scholarship. He spent what would have been his senior football season as a full-time student, focused exclusively on his academic work and playing intramural basketball. He did not however remain completely under the NFL radar as Gil Brandt, working as player personel director for the infant Dallas Cowboys visited Andrie and told him that at 230 pounds, his 6’6” frame needed more muscle tissue. With Brandt’s encouragement and the $500.00 the Cowboys gave him, George joined what was then referred to as a “health spa”, signed with the Cowboys as a sixth round draft pick and reported at a solid 245 pounds which would increase to a robust 250 - 260 within another year. Andrie’s primary goal was to “find out how good I was since I had not reached my full potential at Marquette.” All of George’s teammates immediately noticed a work ethic and willingness to put in whatever extra time was needed to overcome his lost season at Marquette. The great Bob Lilly who played next to Andrie on the Doomsday Defense line said of George, “He had a great attitude and was very intense when he put his uniform on.” He further stated that Coach Tom Landry was teaching and installing his Flex Defense when Andrie arrived and while “no one could learn the entire defense in one year, George learned more than the rest of us.” He also rewarded Brandt’s confidence in him by being named to the NFL All Rookie Team for 1962.  

Description: Image result for george andrie marquette football


There is nothing that could take anything away from the greatness that was Bob Lilly’s professional (or college) football career but some experts have noted that having Andrie at defensive end next to Lilly’s tackle position certainly added to Bob’s opportunities and ability to make big plays. Andrie’s career, despite playing in five Pro Bowls, earning the 1969 Pro Bowl Co-MVP Award, being named First Team All Pro in 1964, and having three Second Team All Pro nominations was in many ways overshadowed by the overall play of Landry’s excellent defenses as well as Lilly, middle linebacker Leroy Jordan, and a number of Hall Of Fame defensive backs. George however would never be one to complain about having or lacking individual awards as he was a team player in every sense of the term. Brandt later said, “George’s career was way above expectations. Any time you’re drafted in the fifth or sixth round and didn’t play football in the previous year and did what he did, that really speaks for itself.” George however, played because he wanted to test his abilities against the best the NFL had to offer, see how good he could be relative to his own expectations, and take advantage of the opportunities the game offered him both on the field and in later business ventures. He proved his ability and his toughness, the latter noted by teammate Lilly when he said, “George was a stalwart, he never missed games, he played with bad elbows, bad knees, cuts, bruises, all the things that in today’s world guys wouldn’t play with.” He always went all out and his teammates looked to him when a great performance was needed. Cowboys guard John Niland related that “You could count on him, especially in the big games. He always had his head in the big game and always played very well.” One of the enduring memories of that statement came in the 1967 NFL Championship “Ice Bowl” Game with George scoring a needed first  Cowboys touchdown after pursuing Packers quarterback Bart Starr for a loss, fumble, and fumble-recovery seven yard touchdown run to kick start his team in the second quarter.   

Description: Image result for george andrie, dallas cowboys

Andrie’s career spanned eleven seasons with 112 consecutive starts, missing only two games in his second season with a dislocated elbow. He garnered my attention because he always seemed so reliable, intense, focused, and even-keeled in his play. To many he wasn’t a “big name” and certainly not enough of a name recognition player compared to other defensive ends of his era to be a true stand-out or star but his quiet no-nonsense manner made him a true favorite in my football universe. It is unfortunate that he has been lost so soon as his family described his successful business career, which included a beer distribution business in partnership with Bob Lilly among other ventures and personal life in very much the same manner. He was steady and reliable, very much one to be counted on.